Alonso hints at 2015 choice - but keeps F1 guessing

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso's future has become as big a story as the world title battle in recent weeks, but his comments suggest the saga is nearly over.

Where will Fernando Alonso race in 2015 - if indeed he is racing at all? Uncertainty over the Spaniard's future has developed to the extent that it is no longer a sub-plot, but rather a complex and long-running story of its own.

In fact, it has been going so long that it is growing a little tedious. Each race weekend Fernando is asked what he will be doing next term, and his reply is always the same: “My future is already set; we are finalising the details; you will know soon.” That theme continued at last weekend's Russian Grand Prix, where the questions kept coming and Fernando stuck to his cryptic replies.

However the Spaniard made a handful of comments in Sochi that point to his plans for 2015 and beyond - assuming he's telling the truth, of course.

Firstly, American broadcaster NBC asked him about the possibility of driving a Mercedes-powered car next year, to which Alonso replied: “I don’t think so."

Obviously using the word "think" leaves him some wiggle room if he does end up with one of the German marque's units behind him next season. But with no vacancies at the factory team or Williams his only Merc options are at Lotus and Force India, making it a reasonable assumption that he won't be wearing a three-pointed star on his overalls in 2015. After all, neither team is capable of paying his wages, which are some way north of €20m per season.

Alonso also remarked: “When you know the options, you will say ‘it was so obvious.’"

Ruling out Mercedes teams does seem to make the options clear. There is zero chance of him driving a Renault-powered car: Red Bull have already confirmed their line-up; he's almost twice Max Verstappen's age, making him rather long-in-the-tooth for a Toro Rosso seat; and even The Mighty Alonso might see driving for Caterham as too great a challenge.

That is seven teams ruled out. It is also highly unlikely that he will have a Ferrari engine next year. His divorce from the factory squad is all but confirmed, with Sebastian Vettel set to join for 2015 alongside Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso has pointed out that the split is "just a rumour", but if he were staying there'd be no reason to remain coy on his 2015 plans - he is clearly negotiating with a rival team. We can also rule out Ferrari customers Sauber and Marussia without further explanation.

Which leaves two options, the first being an increasingly-talked-about sabbatical. However a number of media outlets have effectively written this possibility off. To them, Alonso's assertion that negotiations are "nearing completion" suggest he's speaking of his 2015 plans.

What's more, when the BBC asked Alonso what the chances are of him ending up without a drive next term, the Spaniard said it was "probably not a big risk."

That leaves just one realistic option: returning to McLaren and finally giving Honda the driver they've been chasing for the best part of a decade. The team has the infrastructure and Honda has the money to meet Alonso's wage demands. Ron Dennis wants the best available drivers for next term, and few would dispute that Alonso fits comfortably into that category. Perhaps the hold up is in negotiating a contract that will allow him the chance to escape if Mercedes do come knocking in 2015; Ron won't like that, but there is surely a compromise to be reached that benefits both parties.

McLaren remain the best guess. But, whoever Alonso has chosen to throw his lot in with, hopefully the deal can be confirmed in the near future so that F1 can focus on racing matters rather than this seemingly never-ending contract saga.