BMW-Sauber has confirmed that it is in talks with former double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso about a potential drive at the team next year.
BMW has for some time been mooted as a possible 2009 destination for the Spaniard – who has not now stood up on the podium, far less won a grand prix, since the end of the 2007 campaign in the top flight – with suggestions the under-fire Nick Heidfeld could find himself displaced to make room.
Though not proving capable of challenging Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes on every occasion this season, BMW has nonetheless firmly established itself as one of the sport's 'grandee' teams, currently sitting third in the constructors' standings with 117 points to its credit, only 17 fewer than leader Ferrari – and 91 ahead of Alonso's current employer Renault.
Whilst Alonso continues to insist he is in no hurry to make up his mind about where he drives in 2009 – with Honda similarly believed to be on his radar, alongside BMW and Renault – the communications director for the Spanish arm of BMW has admitted that discussions are taking place.
“The news of the renewal of [Kimi] Raikkonen at Ferrari has accelerated the process,” Gigi Corbetta is quoted as having told Spanish newspaper Marca
on the possibility of the former double F1 World Champion and the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit joining forces in the near future. “Now it is necessary to wait until the end of the season.”
There is also speculation, though, that should Alonso indeed switch across to BMW, it may not be Heidfeld who leaves, with the experienced German's team-mate Robert Kubica having been increasingly outwardly critical of the squad in recent weeks and said to be considering a move in the opposite direction to Renault.
“It was a storm in a tea cup,” BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen however insisted to German news agency SID
. “We have discussed things with Robert in detail. There is no doubt we are all pulling in the same direction.
“We are the strongest team that still has a seat open for 2009, but we have not made any decisions yet. We are always interested in fast drivers.”
Though Alonso and Kubica are close friends, should BMW pair them up it may find itself in the same situation as that which prevailed at McLaren-Mercedes last year between Alonso and Hamilton, with two fiercely-competitive drivers – neither of whom willing to play second fiddle – contriving to tear the team apart at the seams.
Alonso finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza at the weekend, sandwiched by Kubica ahead in third and Heidfeld – whose challenge he saw off by just under four seconds – close behind in fifth.