Confident as ever, Fernando Alonso is certain he will win a third Formula One title.
But even the Spaniard doesn’t know, which team he’ll be on when he does.
Alonso has long been linked with a move away from underachieving Renault to Ferrari, and those reports continue to gain momentum as F1 glides through its traditional “silly season,” when drivers and teams are often linked for the coming season.
Wherever he ends up, the 28-year-old Alonso is certain his “hard-nosed” ways will pay off.
“I’m more prepared than ever. In 2005 and 2006 I didn’t have the experience I have today. I’m a much more complete driver now and when the opportunity arises I’ll be better prepared than ever,” Alonso said from the Belgian Grand Prix. “I want to be world champion again. I’ll never surrender.”
Alonso has an option to renew with Renault but is also free to negotiate with any team. With the French team struggling to provide a consistent package for a second straight season and Spanish bank Banco Santander set to announce a sponsorship deal with Ferrari, the link to the Italians is inevitable.
“It doesn’t change anything,” Alonso said. “Next year I still don’t know where I’m going to be. All the people think I’m going to change teams but I still haven’t said anything. We just have to wait and see.”
It’s hard to imagine any team not jumping at the chance to sign Alonso, who became the youngest world champion with Renault in 2005 at 24 - before future McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton trumped him last year.
The Asturias native then fended off Michael Schumacher in the seven-time champion’s final season for a second straight title. Many in the paddock believe Alonso is the only driver - aside from Schumacher - worth building a team around now.
“I know other racers drive, and then pick up their bags and head home,” Alonso said. “I definitely don’t.”
But since that disastrous 2007 season at McLaren where a public falling out with the team and a terse relationship with Hamilton may have cost him a third straight title, Alonso returned to Renault to find a team struggling to build a championship car for its prodigal son.
Still, Alonso earned two wins to close out 2008 as F1’s best driver, although he doesn’t expect a repeat this season. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to let up, however.
“There’s not any problem of motivation because you can always find it. Here we are at Spa and I’ve got nerves, I can’t wait to get in the car to fight and do well,” Alonso said. “There’s no agreement with the team that if we get to a point where things are worse we will turn the page. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.”
Alonso’s image has also taken a hit during the barren spell.
“Definitely when you don’t have results everything drops. The euphoria, the brand,” the 21-time race winner said.
It could now just be a question of time since Ferrari has Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa under contract for 2010, although Massa’s return remains uncertain as the Brazilian driver continues to recover from life threatening head injuries.
“I do imagine that happening at one point,” former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello said of the Alonso-Ferrari partnership. “I think it’s going to be great for Alonso. He’s going to find it’s great to be at Ferrari.”