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Formula 1 Brazilian GP

Why you can forget the Alonso to Red Bull F1 rumours

Formula 1’s rumour mill went into overdrive this week following Sergio Perez’s first lap exit from the Mexico Grand Prix and a cryptic tweet from a Spanish journalist. 

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, battles with Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Amid the frenzy of Perez's home race, and constant speculation about his contract, the 33-year-old knew that a good performance at Mexico City would help silent doubts about his future and prove that hints of a turnaround in form from Austin were real. 

But a win-or-bust attitude at Turn 1 backfired as he clashed with Charles Leclerc, was launched down the escape road, and suffered too much damage to keep racing. 

That exit, with Lewis Hamilton later finishing behind Max Verstappen, once again saw Perez's second-place position in the drivers’ championship come under threat – further triggering talk that Red Bull may not see out his contract into 2024. 

Those whispers became open talk the day after the race, though, when Spanish journalist Albert Fabrega dropped a cryptic tweet that something big could be happening in the paddock. 

 

“I don't want to believe the rumour that they have told me now in the paddock. No,” he wrote in Spanish on X (formerly known as Twitter).

The absence from Fabrega of any information, context or explanation for how reliable the rumour was lit the fuse on F1’s rumour mill. His tweet was viewed more than 11 million times.

With Fabrega being Spanish, people suspected that it was almost certainly related to Fernando Alonso. Had the Spaniard grown frustrated with Aston Martin’s fall from form this year and decided that now was the right time to retire from F1? 

Or could Fabrega’s piece of gossip be intertwined with Perez’s own future. Many asked was the Mexican about to get dropped, and replaced by Alonso for 2024? 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team,

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team,

That latter theory was revved up with Red Bull Spain posted a shushing face emoji following Fabrega’s original Tweet.

 

Fabrega probably never anticipated his original tweet would go viral, and is certainly not the sort of journalist that offers such a blatant tease simply to get attention for the sake of it.

But whatever his original motivation, Pandora’s Box was open and there was no way the gossip was going to be silenced – even with Fabrega later tweeting a follow-up to try to calm things down.

 

“I'm just going to say one thing about the rumour that I told you yesterday,” he wrote. “From the tone of the text it is understood that I would not like it to happen. From here, you can speculate as much as you/we want. And I hope it remains a rumour and not news. End of thread.” 

So, what of the main story theories surrounding Fabrega’s tweets? 

That Alonso wants to quit sounds unlikely, to say the least. The 42-year-old left Alpine at the end of 2022 because it didn’t want to commit to a multi-year contract with him. He wants to continue as long as he remains quick.

He seems as motivated and hungry as ever and, while clearly not as happy now with the performance of the Aston Martin as he was at the start of the season, there has been no hint of him giving up on the project.

In fact, he seems to understand that the brilliant form at the start of this year was a bonus and that it was always a long-term mission to get Aston Martin close to the front.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

“I know that we are more and more like football here and only the last result seems to count,” he said in Mexico.

“But we cannot forget where we've come from and what the project is about. So, I'm very proud of this season so far.”

If Alonso is fired-up for more in F1, then the rumours about him being the logical candidate to replace Perez seem more plausible. 

After all, some suggested a chat that Alonso’s manager Flavio Briatore was spotted having with Red Bull boss Christian Horner at the Qatar GP must have been driver related.

Perez’s run of form in the dominant RB19 has been disappointing this year. He has not won a race since the Azerbaijan GP in April, and his best result in the last five races has been a fourth-placed finish in Austin – which was helped by the disqualification of Lewis Hamilton.

The gap between him and Verstappen has fuelled talk all season that his place could be under threat, despite there being a firm contract in place for 2024.

But, despite the intensity of the rumours, senior sources at Red Bull insist it is not thinking of any other scenario right now than of Perez being Verstappen’s team-mate at the start of the 2024 season.

While there may be an element of frustration that Perez has not done more with the RB19, there are actually no obvious candidates who are guaranteed to be faster, have the right mindset to take on Verstappen and, crucially, are available to slot in.

Alonso could, in theory, tick all those boxes but it is understood that he is not being considered by Red Bull’s bosses – and nor is he especially favoured by the team’s engine partner Honda.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team

The squad has long been mindful that signing Alonso brings with it a lot of potential political baggage, and that could risk opening internal trouble within the team that could destabilise Verstappen.

Red Bull sources insist he is not an option and that any discussions Horner had with Briatore in Qatar were totally unrelated to drivers. One senior figure said it was “total nonsense” to think that Alonso was being lined up.

There are other fast drivers out there who would fit the bill for Red Bull – like Lando Norris. But the Briton is under lock and key at McLaren and is not available until the end of 2025, so is no candidate to replace Perez yet.

This all leaves Daniel Ricciardo as the most likely prospect should Perez’s place be in doubt – especially off the back of how well he performed in Mexico. But while he has impressed, it is not thought that Red Bull has seen enough to think that he is ready to step up and go up against Verstappen just yet. 

However, it's not impossible that such a promotion could come at some point in the 2024 season if Perez’s form does not improve.

Should that scenario happen, then it is thought that Perez would be out of the Red Bull family entirely as it is understood his contract does not allow the shuffling between the main team and AlphaTauri as other drivers have had in the past.

For now, the message is clear that Red Bull bosses have faith and hope that Perez can end this year strongly and use that as a springboard to a better 2024.

Marko said of Perez’s showing in Mexico: “[It was] a super performance up to the first lap, and in the race, I'm convinced, he would also have finished on the podium.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was encouraged by Perez’s promising pace in Mexico but is aware that the challenge is now on for him to secure that second place in the drivers’ championship.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

While it is not a simple case of that runner-up position to Verstappen guaranteeing his place, the team clearly hopes that the final races give it reason to feel that Perez has turned the corner.

Asked if Perez’s second-place finish in the championship would decide his future, Horner said: “It’s not as binary as that. You’ve got to look at the circumstances and so on and we’ve made a... Checo has an agreement with us for next year and that’s our intention, for him to be in the car in 2024.

“We’ll give him all the support we can to ensure that he finishes second but there’s no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, you’re out.”  

Horner's use of language was intriguing though, as the word ‘intention’ in F1-speak is often marked to differentiate between what someone wants to happen against what will really happen. 

As of right now, it does not appear that Red Bull is looking for a different driver in 2024, so it appears that Fabrega’s tweet was perhaps about something else. 

Read Also:

The link to Alonso is obvious, and it could be that there are some doubts emerging about the future prospects of the Aston Martin team.

Off the back of the team’s fall, and especially the way Lance Stroll has encountered such difficulties this year, is team owner Lawrence Stroll losing faith that he can produce a team that can make his son world champion? Could the team be sold to someone else as Stroll sr loses interest in F1? 

That is all hard to predict right now, but it could also be that the rumour that was picked up in Mexico is nothing more than that: just a rumour.  

It would not be the first time that wild gossip has spread around the paddock and social media before going nowhere.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

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