Has Fernando Alonso been left in no-man's land by Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari move?
"Vettel has seized the initiative and he’s taken a lot of people by surprise," says Sky F1's Brundle; McLaren now looks Spaniard's only possible 2015 destination after breakdown in Ferrari relations
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 04/10/14 8:08am
Fernando Alonso could take a year out of F1 following the bombshell news that Sebastian Vettel will join Ferrari in 2015, according to Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.
In a stunning development that few predicted and caught the F1 paddock almost entirely by surprise, Vettel informed Red Bull late on Friday night in Japan that he was activating the release clause in his contract to join Ferrari.
The Scuderia are yet to publicly comment on the news, but Vettel’s transfer all-but guarantees Alonso’s exit following a breakdown in his relationship with the new Ferrari hierarchy. Sky F1 understands that the remaining two years on Alonso's contract were terminated by mutual consent on Thursday evening.
Yet with Red Bull confirming that Vettel will be replaced by Daniil Kvyat, and Mercedes retaining both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton for 2015, Alonso’s only realistic prospect for remaining on the grid next year looks to be a return to McLaren ahead of their reunion with Honda.
It remains unclear at this stage whether Alonso has himself been caught unawares by Vettel’s unexpected defection and been outmanoeuvred by the four-times World Champion in F1’s latest instance of high-stakes musical chairs or if his plans for 2015 are already in place.
“The music has stopped,” Ron Dennis, with whom Alonso fell out to spectacular effect during his solitary season at McLaren seven years ago, told Sky F1 cryptically when he arrived in the Suzuka paddock on Saturday morning.
“I wonder if Alonso has parked himself in no man’s land,” mused Sky F1’s Martin Brundle. “It’s going to be fascinating to see. Taking a year out is one of Alonso’s options. Vettel has seized the initiative and he’s taken a lot of people by surprise.”
While two-time title winner Alonso is commonly regarded as the sport's leading driver, Red Bull have admitted that they did not consider him as a replacement for Vettel - preferring instead to appoint Daniil Kvyat as Daniel Ricciardo's 2015 team-mate.
"Red Bull's philosophy has always been to invest in youth. That's where Seb's come from, that's where Daniel's come from and Daniil Kvyat looks an outstanding talent as well," team boss Christian Horner told Sky F1.
Were Alonso to join McLaren, the move would almost certainly signal the end of Jenson Button's F1 career. The team insisted on Friday night that they had yet to sign a deal with any driver for 2015.
The 2014 Japanese GP is live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Extensive coverage of Race Day at Suzuka begins at 5.30am on Sunday with lights out at 7am.