Alonso provides distraction from F1 row
Fernando Alonso spoke for many on Thursday when he was asked to sum up his reaction to the latest twist in the seemingly endless political row that is still in danger of splitting Formula 1 down the middle.
"We have spent too much time talking about this," Renault's double world champion said, "and it doesn't help Formula 1.
"Hopefully, we can talk about the sport instead."
There's not much chance of that at the Nurburgring this weekend, Fernando.
The paddock here can quite often be a dull place, but that is certainly not the case as the F1 circus descends on this corner of Germany's Eifel mountains for the latest chapter in what is proving to be a tumultuous season.
The ongoing dispute between eight of the biggest F1 teams and Max Mosley, which has taken a fresh twist following a meeting on Wednesday, was certainly at the top of the agenda. But Alonso himself also featured heavily - most specifically where he might be driving next year.
It is widely regarded as a matter of when, rather than if, the Spaniard finds himself in a Ferrari.
The subject came up again in Germany because two respected Spanish newspapers, Marca and As, reported on Thursday that Alonso was in the final stages of agreeing to move to the Italian team in 2010 - when both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are still notionally under contract.
The Spanish newspaper stories followed a piece in the Italian magazine Autosprint, which had run the same story, and mocked up a cover picture featuring Alonso in Ferrari overalls and carrying Raikkonen's helmet.
As always, Alonso dismissed the stories as "rumours". And for what it's worth, I asked him directly whether a) he had had talks with Ferrari and b) whether he already had a Ferrari contract, and he looked me in the eye and said, with a smile, "No and no." Make of that what you will.
To most people outside F1, the subject of whether the most complete racing driver on the planet will be driving for the sport's most famous team is of far greater importance than discussions about rule changes, entry lists and contracts.
But, for those inside the paddock fences at the Nurburgring, Alonso's future is merely an interesting diversion from the bigger issue.
If you are confused by the latest development, you are not alone. Most people in F1 cannot understand how governing body the FIA can release an entry list on 24 June listing all the existing teams and then say on Wednesday this week that they could not discuss finalising next year's rules because they were not entered in the championship.
That release on 24 June announced a peace deal in the months-long row between the Formula 1 Teams' Association (Fota) - which represents McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Brawn, Red Bull and Toro Rosso - and Mosley, the president of governing body the FIA.
The agreement was reported as a victory for Fota and a defeat for Mosley (which, fundamentally, it was, as Fota got its way on all its demands, and Mosley didn't).
But Mosley was offended by the way Fota presented the deal as a victory
and within 48 hours was hinting that he might stand again for the presidency, despite his commitment not to do so being part of the 24 June agreement.
Publicly, Fota is playing down the latest instalment in the endless row even as it insists it is still pressing ahead with plans to set up a breakaway championship while continuing to resolve the latest dispute.
"We have to keep our options open," said BMW F1 boss Mario Theissen.
"We are working in both directions."
Negotiations continue over establishing a new Concorde Agreement, the document that enshrines the teams' rights and binds them to the sport, but a number of sticking points remain.
The teams are not prepared to commit to F1 without sorting out the problems - including being certain Mosley will depart - but a Concorde Agreement cannot be signed without agreement on issues such as technical regulations and the detail of how costs will be brought down, a subject on which Mosley is demanding a binding legal contract.
And Mosley's behaviour is a constant sticking point - the Fota teams simply do not trust him - so it remains to be seen how the sport's bosses will extricate themselves from this stand-off.
Caught in the middle of all this is CVC, the venture capital group that owns F1's commercial rights.
A breakaway - and therefore an F1 without Ferrari and the top drivers
- is a nightmare prospect for a company that has invested billions in the sport and is lumbered with a huge debt.
So CVC is, to say the least, keen for a compromise to be reached.
Its headache has been intensified by the furore surrounding an interview given by Mosley's colleague Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's commercial boss, to the Times last weekend, in which he said Adolf Hitler was a man who "was able to get things done".
The remarks have made a number of major stakeholders in and sponsors of F1 extremely uncomfortable. Ecclestone, who is CVC's employee, apologised - "I'm just sorry I was an idiot" - and CVC released a statement expressing "shock".
BMW F1 team boss Mario Theissen said of Ecclestone's comments here on
Thursday: "He's wrong and it's disgusting. I believe he's going to make another apology and I think that's entirely necessary."
It all adds up to a sense that time is running out for the men who have ruled F1 for the past few decades.
All in all, then, Alonso's hope that people might concentrate on the racing looks like being unfulfilled for a while yet.