Fernando Alonso has no intention of leaving Ferrari, even if a title-winning seat at Red Bull were potentially on offer.
That is the claim of Flavio Briatore, who oversaw Alonso's career at the time of his two world titles with Renault. The Spaniard was first linked to the 2014 vacancy created by Mark Webber's decision to retire from grand prix racing during last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, and helped stir the pot by declaring that what he most wanted for his birthday was 'someone else's car'….
Briatore, however, insists that his charge is going nowhere, having only recently inked an extension to his Ferrari contract with the intention of seeing out the remainder of his F1 career with the Scuderia.
"Fernando has a contract and contracts must be respected," Briatore told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport
newspaper, "There is no temptation [to leave Ferrari] whatsoever."
Webber's departure holds the key to this year's silly season in much the same way as Lewis Hamilton's prevarication over joining Mercedes did in 2012, but the ball is firmly in Red Bull's court with the Australian having announced his decision to join Porsche's nascent sports prototype programme as long ago as the British Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen are understood to be the frontrunners for the seat, although team boss Christian Horner, having previously claimed that the short-list was down to two, admitted in Hungary that he had been surprised by some of the interest he had received. Having been spotted in conversation with Alonso's manager, Luis Garcia Abad, at the Hungaroring, Horner's 'other applications' were naturally assumed to include the Spaniard and, with the German media then linking Raikkonen to Ferrari, the rumour mill continued to go into overdrive. Abad, meanwhile, insists that he was discussing the future of another client, Red Bull Junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr, with Horner, presumably with a view to increasing the youngster's F1 activities in 2014.
Briatore also insists that there is nothing to the story, and played down Alonso's flippant birthday request as little more than a means of chivvying Ferrari into action as he sees his 2013 championship ambitions fading.
"It's normal for a racing driver to desire a competitive car and the team must work hard to supply it. End of story," he stated, "Alonso has never said he wants to leave. Ferrari and Alonso remain a winning pairing - he just needs to have a car that allows him to start from the top two rows...”
The thought of Alonso partnering Sebastian Vettel – originally at Ferrari when the German was rumoured to be seeking a new challenge – remains untenable in many minds, with both drivers happily ensconced as number one in their respective teams, but Briatore again defies the general belief by insisting that Alonso would not shy away from the challenge, despite having been bitten by his encounter with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
"Fernando has never had problems racing with anyone else,” the Italian claimed, “He's like Senna in that respect. Ayrton would say 'put anyone next to me', and that's what Alonso is like."