It's not only the footballers who are the subject of transfer deals. Though not as publicized or exaggerated as football, Formula One too has its share of hectic negotiations and deals when it comes to the transfer of top drivers from one team to the other. This week, Honda's Team Principal Ross Brawn created quite a stir by stating that Fernando Alonso was the best driver in Formula One at the moment. Defending champion Kimi Raikkonen and drivers' title leader Lewis Hamilton may not agree with Brawn's admiration of the Renault driver, but there's no doubt that the statement by Brawn is a clever tactical ploy to woo Alonso to the Honda fold for 2009.
The 54-year-old former Ferrari technical director knows the importance of bringing in a seasoned driver like Alonso to a struggling yet economically sound team like Honda. Brawn was in the same situation almost a decade ago when a struggling Ferrari created a sensation by roping in Michael Schumacher. Schumacher, it may be recalled, had won back-to-back world championships with Benetton in 1994 and 1995. The following year, Schumi took up the driver's seat in Ferrari and, along with Jean Todt and Ross Brawn, changed the fortunes of the Italian team.
Like the Ferrari of 1996, Honda desperately needs some inspiration to put an end to their miserable outing. Despite there being no shortage of funds, the Japanese giant has been struggling for a number of seasons, so much so that this year they have been relegated to the back of the field. Even minnows Force India have stated that catching Honda is their objective.
With the Ferrari experience still fresh in his mind, Brawn has started revamping the Honda unit and bringing in Alonso is a logical step. Honda can easily afford to pay an extravagant sum to Alonso if they get a long-term commitment from the Spanish driver, similar to what Schumacher did to Ferrari.
Whether Alonso can make that commitment is a big question. For, after reaching dizzying heights following his world championship winning run, Alonso hasn't had anything to show for the past two years. In 2007, he had an acrimonious relationship with McLaren while this year, he has had to do with an underpowered Renault. Alonso desperately needs a team that can guarantee Alonso a return to those heights. Given Honda's performance over the past few years, it will take a lot more than just promises from the Japanese team to being Alonso to their camp.
There were rumours that Alonso could end up in the Ferrari camp as a possible replacement to Kimi Raikkonen whose motivation and commitment level has been constantly questioned because of an indifferent performance this year. However, last week, Ferrari scotched those rumours by declaring Kimi and Massa their drivers for the next year.
The other option for Alonso could be BMW-Sauber. The Swiss-German team has been performing satisfactorily and it's by far the best team after McLaren and Ferrari. Perhaps, the genius of Alonso could propel BMW-Sauber into the big league. There are indications that Nick Heidfeld may find himself out of the BMW camp because of his inconsistent performance.
One thing is for sure. Alonso can't continue with an underforming Renault. The toss-up is between BMW and Honda.
6 months ago