Fernando Alonso looks increasingly likely to limit his options of employment for next year by continuing to press for a single-season contract that would leave him free to join Ferrari in 2009.

Despite claiming, at the height of his fall-out with McLaren, that ten teams would be interested in securing his signature for 2008, Alonso's choice continues to narrow, with several teams having completed their line-ups, others expected to be beneath his expectation, and more still unwilling to accommodate his wish to bide time before heading to Maranello.

Among the latter group is one of the teams thought to be in the running to land his signature for the coming campaign, Red Bull Racing. Alonso's options are currently thought to encompass Renault, Toyota, Honda and BMW Sauber as well as the Milton Keynes operation - despite only the regie having yet to confirm its line-up - but he could see the door slammed shut by RBR if he persists in chasing a one-year option.

"From what I'm hearing, [Alonso] is only negotiating with the other teams for a one-year deal," Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz told Germany's Motorsport Aktuell, "A deal like that would be out of the question for us."

Making no secret of the fact that he would love to hire the double world champion, Mateschitz admitted that he would only be interested in negotiating at least a two-year deal with options, but would not disclose whether talks - rumoured by other sources - had been held.

"We would rather wait another year and show that we are capable of building a car for 2009 that would be worthy of attracting one of the best grand prix drivers," he said, appearing to call Alonso's bluff. The Spaniard has apparently been given similar terms for a return to Renault, with Flavio Briatore equally unwilling to temporarily house a driver destined for one of his biggest rivals.

The driver market remains largely hinged on Alonso's destination and the identity of his replacement at McLaren. The Woking team continues to hold interest in several drivers - apparently including Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen, despite the German having been confirmed at Williams. Should he be prised away from Grove, the market could shift again, potentially opening further options for Alonso, and it appears, albeit unintentionally, as if the Spaniard is playing another game of cat-and-mouse with McLaren.

Ross Brawn's arrival at Honda may make the Brackley team more enticing for the out-going world champion, but would have to off-load either Jenson Button or Rubens Barrichello to make room for him. Likewise, if the speculation about Toyota or BMW proves correct, it would mean bad news for one of the four drivers apparently confirmed at Cologne or Hinwil. BMW's Mario Theissen did not sound like a man considering dropping either Nick Heidfeld - another apparent McLaren target - or Robert Kubica when he spoke to Crash.net at the weekend, while Timo Glock has been announced at Toyota, leaving only Jarno Trulli - who believes he is secure alongside the German - as the weakest link.

Red Bull, too, has two drivers apparently contracted for 2008, with David Coulthard and Mark Webber confirmed well before the end of the season. The Scot has already spoken out against Alonso's arrival, claiming that he has a watertight deal that means he cannot be pushed aside to Scuderia Toro Rosso - as has been rumoured - while Webber is expected to have similar clauses in his arrangement.

 

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