Rumour mill in full swing as paddock gossips about Adrian Newey & Fernando Alonso
But Sky Sports F1 understands Ross Brawn isn't returning to Ferrari despite last week's Maranello visit
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 11/05/14 10:59am
Spring has barely sprung but the F1 rumour mill is already in full swing amid renewed speculation Ferrari are once again chasing Adrian Newey while a frustrated Fernando Alonso could leave the team at the end of 2014.
In part a reflection of the relentless monotony of Mercedes' on-track domination since the start of the season, the main talking points around this weekend's Spanish GP has been off-track transfer gossip which has spread like wildfire through the paddock.
As ever, some of the talk has stretched credulity, most notably when World Champion Sebastian Vettel had to bat away suggestions on Thursday night that he had received a 'love letter' from McLaren boss Ron Dennis. The notion of McLaren's notoriously taciturn boss sending love notes has a certain charm but is approximately as feasible as backmarkers Marussia winning Sunday's race.
Few are scoffing at rumours that Ferrari have made a fresh approach to Red Bull Technical Director Adrian Newey, however. The Scuderia are in dire straits and, barring a sporting miracle later today, without a victory in over a year. What better fix could there be than signing the one man in F1 whose CV, boasting championship-winning designs for three different teams, reads as the closest thing to a guarantee of success in F1?
"If I was at Ferrari, I'd be trying to sign Adrian Newey," mused Sky F1's Martin Brundle. "The worst that can happen is that it destabilises Red Bull, or they might get hold of him. The story is building a head of steam in the Italian media."
Yet the flaw in the story is the location: Newey, whose working life has been entirely based in England's Motorsport Valley, has repeatedly rejected overtures from the Scuderia in the past in order to keep his family settled in the shires of middle England. Although Red Bull have, perhaps pointedly, refused to rubbish the story, there's been no indication - at least not yet - of a change in outlook from Newey.
"They're a great team and just like many drivers end up succumbing to Ferrari's romance, engineers aren't completely callous, but I won't be going to Ferrari," Newey declared in an interview two years ago. "One reason is that my family [with four children] is in England. And being involved with Red Bull from the start has been hugely rewarding. I have no desire to work for any-one else in F1."
But is Alonso's desire to drive for Ferrari on the wane? Speculation that the Spaniard's frustration has reached boiling point has been fuelled rather than quelled by the sudden resignation of Stefano Domenicali as Ferrari's team boss last month, although the prospect of the Spaniard moving to Mercedes - as touted by the tabloid press in his homeland - appears remote and founded on little more than wishful thinking.
No matter that Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, recently hailed Alonso as "a monster"; both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are in possession of long-term contracts with the new number one team in the sport and, residing at the summit of both championships, Mercedes have no reason to rock the boat by signing a driver who ripped McLaren asunder during his single season at Woking seven years ago.
"It makes us very happy, and it is very flattering, that good drivers want to join us, but we are very happy with Nico and Lewis," Wolff told Sky Sports F1 in the wake of Hamilton's latest pole position. "We like to have long-term relationships, we are not out there for one-night stands.
"If you have a solid marriage, and we have a solid marriage, then you do not flirt at all. Some of the things were probably quoted out of context, I think he is a very decent and very, very strong race driver, but our two boys are on the top of their game and I wouldn't change them for the world. We are very happy with our drivers and there is no wish to change that situation whatsoever."
Which isn't to say that Alonso is happy at Ferrari. The Spaniard might remain a model of resilience in public - and excellence on the track - but he would have to possess the patience of a saint not to have grown weary of the Scuderia's ongoing failure to deliver him a competitive car. The F14 T is arguably only the fourth fastest car on the grid at present.
"It's not out of the question that in the second-half of the season that Fernando will be looking for a seat which is not at Ferrari," acknowledged Brundle during Sky F1's coverage from Barcelona.
Amid such desperate times for both team and driver, even a previously-unthinkable reunion with McLaren has long ceased to be considered outlandish.
Whether Alonso's frustrations and wanderlust would be quelled by the arrival of Newey is a moot point, but may be a factor in the Scuderia's reputed pursuit of Red Bull's resident technical genius.
Amid the fevered speculation, the only certainty appears to be that Ross Brawn will not be returning to Ferrari in the near future despite being spotted at the team's Maranello base last week.
"I had some communication from Ross, and I know some of the friends he was with during the visit, and he says 'they know I have no intention of coming back to a full-time position in F1 at the moment'. People are reading too much into the visit. Ross is not on his way back to Ferrari at the moment."
But in F1, it seems, nobody stays still for long.
Coverage of Race Day, live on Sky Sports F1, starts at 11.30am with the Spanish GP underway at 1pm