Since McLaren's recent confirmation that the team and Fernando Alonso have agreed to part company the rumour mill has gone into overdrive about who will be teammate to Lewis Hamilton next year. Several names have been linked with the Woking squad...
Since McLaren's recent confirmation that the team and Fernando Alonso have agreed to part company the rumour mill has gone into overdrive about who will be teammate to Lewis Hamilton next year. Several names have been linked with the Woking squad but CEO Martin Whitmarsh said there is no hurry to confirm the second race seat for 2008.
"In truth I think we're rather dictating the driver transfer market at the moment," Whitmarsh was quoted by the UK's Guardian newspaper. "Until the second McLaren drive is sorted out I don't think you'll see much movement, so we're not really hurried."
Of course, McLaren has a short list for the vacancy but with any driver it's a matter of contractual issues. "Obviously there are some drivers who've approached us who are contracted elsewhere and we've had to say we can't talk to them unless they can prove they are free to negotiate," Whitmarsh added.
At last weekend's Mercedes Stars and Cars event Hamilton named Nico Rosberg (Williams), Adrian Sutil (Sutil) and Heikki Kovalainen (Renault) as likely candidates to line up alongside him. All three are supposedly already signed up for next season and Williams, at least, appears determined to hold onto its man.
"Nico is contracted to our team for 2008 and we have an option for his services for 2009," engineering chief Patrick Head said, according to the Mail on Sunday. "We are planning to go into next season with Nico as our lead driver, and we would not entertain any approach from McLaren for Nico."
Meanwhile, a return to Renault for Alonso is widely predicted and managing director Flavio Briatore has reportedly offered the Spaniard a contract and expects a reply this week. There is also a rumour linking the double world champion to Red Bull, along with former Ferrari technical chief Ross Brawn.
Mark Webber and David Coulthard are contracted to Red Bull for 2008 but Dietrich Mateschitz, the energy drink manufacturer boss, has allegedly commented that "nothing in F1 is certain". Speculation suggests that Webber, who is managed by Briatore, would likely depart for Renault should Alonso arrive.
As usual it's all just rumour and gossip while everyone waits to see what will happen. If, as Whitmarsh claims, the driver market hinges on McLaren's decision it -- although one would have think that Alonso's direction will also play a significant role -- it doesn't look like much will be concluded any time soon.