Fernando Alonso has added his voice to the 'spec engine' row bubbling under in Formula One, threatening to walk away from the sport if it went down that particular route.
While little has been heard of FIA president Max Mosley's plans to investigate the possibility of all teams running the same engine in future seasons, Alonso joined several of the major manufacturers involved in F1 - including world champion Ferrari and big spender Toyota - in claiming that altering the fabric of the sport to that degree would be a reason to quit.
Alonso is one of the more bankable stars in the top flight and, like Ferrari, would be something Mosley and commercial guru Bernie Ecclestone would be keen to keep on board for years to come. However, the Spaniard, who claimed back-to-back world titles for the previously unfancied Renault team in 2005-06, admitted that, in his opinion, Formula One was regressing from its supposed position at the head of technological innovation and pure performance.
"If they approved [the spec engine], it would be the last straw - time to think about retirement," he told reporters at an event organised by sponsor ING, "In 2005, we had a V10 engine with 1000 horsepower, and that was what was exciting for the driver - motor racing at the limit. Now we have gone from the futuristic to cars without grip or electronic aids which look like something from the past. Formula One should be the leader when it comes to technology."
Despite his fears, however, Alonso remains unconvinced that the FIA would push through a rule forcing all teams to use the same powerplant.
"I think it would be the end of Formula One as we know it," he admitted, "but I do not believe that they will carry it out. I think there would only be one type of engine for those teams that cannot manufacture their own [and do not have a manufacturer supply]."
Technical changes are already afoot for 2009, and Alonso is happy to see the return of slick tyres to the top flight, even if he appears less interested by the introduction of KERS - which will be optional next season - or the possibility to adjust the car's aerodynamics from inside the cockpit.
"I think we'll all be starting from scratch with the new tyres, and that can be good for us," he said of the Renault team, with which he signed a two-year extension to his deal last month, "The Bridgestones of the two last years were quite special and there were certain difficulties that we never got on top of as they were very different to the Michelins of 2005 and 2006. That they have is, in itself, already good for me.
"KERS will not be so important next year - Toyota has already said that it is thinking of doing without it, and it does not worry me because the team is used to doing things properly. It is already working hard a system for the R29 and it is giving no problems in terms of reliability, but there are teams that are testing KERS in their old cars and finding that it does not give them a lot of advantage. We are not worried that they are testing as our new car will be a different proposition to the current hybrids.
"The car already has the possibility to alter the front wing to aid overtaking, but I don't think it will make that much of a difference to performance because moving two or three degrees won't be decisive enough. It will mean that we are having to adjust something on the steering wheel seven or eight times a lap, which is a major distraction and, at places like Monaco, you already have enough to worry about!"
Unlike former McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Alonso also appears in no rush to get his hands on the R29.
"I'm not worried about it because the world championship starts later than usual and, the later the launch, the more work the team can do to prepare the car," he reasoned, "The cars that go well at the beginning of February have their ideas copied and the car that will be unveiled on 20 January has little in common with that which will appear in Australia. That's where we will have the best car that we can, and that's what counts...."