Fernando Alonso is on the verge of agreeing terms to a $15m USD (£7.6m) deal to race for Honda in Formula 1 in 2009 in place of veteran Rubens Barrichello – but whether it will be for just next season or for longer remains uncertain.
According to British newspaper The Guardian
, the former double F1 World Champion, frustrated by a season spent behind the wheel of an uncompetitive car in Renault's R28, will partner Jenson Button at the big-budget Japanese outfit, which many expect to take a leap up the grand prix grid when the sport's sweeping new technical regulations – including the return of slick tyres and the new KERS energy regeneration systems – are introduced next year.
Part of the reason for that is the fact that team principal Ross Brawn is renowned for possessing one of the sharpest brains in the top flight, having helped to mastermind all seven of the record-breaking Michael Schumacher's world championship successes at first Benetton and then Ferrari between 1994 and 2004.
The Englishman has made no secret of his desire to see Alonso in one of his cars, describing the Spaniard as 'the only [driver] that I see as totally complete, as Michael was' [see separate story – click here
], and believing that the 19-time grand prix-winner would be a major coup for the team with his test and development skills in F1's new dawn.
Though the widespread belief within the paddock is that the 27-year-old will switch to Ferrari sooner or later – likely depending upon how much longer defending world champion Kimi Raikkonen chooses to remain in the sport, at the moment unclear – Honda could offer an attractive stop-gap option for him.
“Fernando is a wonderful driver who would be a fantastic asset to any of the top teams, including this one,” the Brackley-based outfit's CEO Nick Fry told The Guardian
. “The job Ross and I have is to build a world championship-winning team.”
Alonso has notched up just 18 points thus far in 2008, leaving him sitting joint eighth in the drivers' standings with not so much as a single rostrum finish to his name from the opening eleven races of the campaign.