Japanese Grand Prix 2014: Fernando Alonso’s future at Ferrari and swap deal with Sebastian Vettel is talk of Suzuka

Another driver believes the Spaniard’s relationship with Maranello has been irreparably harmed since the last race in Singapore

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The Independent Online

So what would you do if you were Fernando Alonso? You’re 33 years old. Your move to Ferrari in 2010 has spectacularly failed to pay off. Five seasons of frustration have yielded only half as many victories as your six years with Renault.

You have had to watch Sebastian Vettel rise to prominence with four world championships on the trot, and Lewis Hamilton coming back fast with Mercedes after embarrassing you at McLaren in his 2007 rookie season. Now your bosses at Ferrari are giving you a hard time even though you’ve driven your heart out with barely a public condemnation of their uncompetitive machines.

Your next move will surely be the last team change you will make in a career that is moving towards its final lap. So do you see out your contract and stay another season with Ferrari, then take stock of the situation again this time next year? Or take a sabbatical, as another frustrated Ferrari pilot, Alain Prost, was obliged to do after being sacked in 1991 for criticising the machinery at his disposal?

Much has been written of another option, the proposed swap by which Alonso would replace Vettel at Red Bull and Vettel would take his seat at Ferrari. For sure, that has been discussed. But what would it take to make that happen?

Alonso is a warrior and thinks like one on and off the track. And being a warrior means taking the initiative and looking for the position of strength.

Another driver, who knows him extremely well, firmly believes that the Spaniard’s relationship with Ferrari has been irreparably harmed since Singapore last month and that he will leave, regardless of the fact that his contract still has a year to run. Were he to do that, he would be the man in control of events, albeit at a financial cost. Ferrari would have to react, and their reaction would logically be to go after Vettel. And if he were to leave Red Bull there would suddenly be a vacancy...

Ferrari’s new team principal, Marco Mattiacci, recently made a very telling response when Sky’s Martin Brundle asked him what it would take to keep Alonso happy. Effectively, he replied that he was not interested in the Spaniard’s happiness, only in making fast racing cars.

That seemed extremely churlish, disrespecting the man who has been the team’s greatest asset for the past five seasons and without whom their outlook would assuredly be even gloomier. But what if Mattiacci already knew that his bird was about to fly the nest? Then the comment would be understandable.

The paddock was as awash with such speculation as it was with water, as heavy rain prompted fears that the imminent Typhoon Phanfone in Japan might jeopardise the race the way one did back in 2004. Then, qualifying was cancelled and had to be run on Sunday morning, ahead of the race.

As some reports suggest that Phanfone is gathering strength, the situation is complicated by the need to break camp on Sunday evening and ship everything to Sochi in time for the next weekend’s inaugural Russian GP. But local sources suggest that the typhoon will strike late on Monday, away from Suzuka.

It has been one of those weekends so far, when what might happen has dominated the conversations.

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