Fernando Alonso has become the face of the 2014 'silly season' as rumours persist over his future in Formula 1.
Throughout the year, speculation has linked him with moves away from current team Ferrari to his former home at McLaren and, last week, even a shock swap with Sebastian Vettel to Red Bull.
Honda's prime target
There is no doubting the two-time world champion is the main target for McLaren's new engine supplier, Honda, and after four tumultuous years at Ferrari it wouldn't be a surprise if he was seriously considering their offer. Yet now it seems that in the next few weeks, as the sport heads to Japan for a race at Suzuka, the Spaniard will turn down McLaren and Honda's approach and stay with the Scuderia.
The clearest sign yet came just prior to the Singapore Grand Prix this past weekend where Alonso visibly lost his patience with the media and their constant speculating accusing those spreading the rumours of damaging the morale within Maranello.
It has been something almost surreal to see during a time of great change at the sport's most iconic team that a driver of the stature and passion of Alonso, a man that could command a race seat anywhere he wanted, is defending a team clearly not able to match his current expectations.
Its not much of a surprise that Alonso is keen to have success with Ferrari, ask any driver what team they would most love to drive and win with and most would say Ferrari, but is the Spaniard's dream simply that?
Does he really think a team that is barely able to challenge for a podium on the odd occasion can find the formula to all of a sudden start competing with Mercedes and Red Bull for championships during a time of key personnel changes within the company?
For sure the changes being implemented are a step in the right direction for Ferrari, and in Spa and Singapore there were definitely signs of progress, but can the level of progress and change bring success to Alonso before he enters the twilight of his career?
What Alonso needs is a team that can offer him instant results because as the next generation rises, the opportunities for Fernando to claim that treasured third title are dwindling by the year.
And at Ferrari I really don't think they will turn round their current slump before 2016. Perhaps 2017 at the latest.
For me it is a risk for Fernando to not look elsewhere if the offers are being made and show some of the selfish attitude that earned him the wrath of many fans during his year with McLaren.
The question also has to be, however, how worthy are the alternatives at fulfilling his desired ambitions?
With McLaren being the most likely choice, the key aspect to a move there is whether the new Honda power unit can be a success right from the start.
Much like Ferrari, the team has endured it's own dip in the past few years, indeed so much so the team is currently embroiled in a battle with Force India to see who will get the unwanted privilege of being the worst team with the leading Mercedes engine, and Ferrari, mainly through Alonso, are ahead of the Woking team in the Constructors' standings.
Therefore the most likely question going through the Spaniard's mind is whether a new power unit can really make up the equally huge gap McLaren has to the leaders that Ferrari also has? The likely answer there is no.
The other speculated option is Red Bull and this would be a more realistic choice to achieve quick success.
Despite being overshadowed by the dominant Mercedes, it is hoped the Renault power unit can be developed and become more competitive against it's British-built German rival next year because it has been the only reason for the team not matching the Silver Arrows during this one.
And despite his rapid rise this year, would Daniel Ricciardo be able to have the same success over Alonso that he has had over a troubled Vettel this year? That would be hard to decide.
As the year's tick by, the question of motivation also has to be asked. The 33-year-old has revealed several times the drive to become a three-time champion is the only thing keeping him in F1, away from that he is not enjoying the fuel and tyre dominated era the sport is currently in and admits he would look elsewhere to find a new thrill.
Therefore is it a case of seeing out his career with Ferrari and if the third title doesn't occur then so be it?
I highly doubt it given the fact he is perhaps the only driver who can give 110% in any car regardless of performance and the will to win is something he will never lose.
Best of a bad situation?
Personally I think Alonso has been too loyal to Ferrari during this time of intense speculation, however, at the same time, if a decision to stay has already been made then it is right to defend the team he drives for.
But if that was the case then surely official confirmation would have been made by all sides rather than public interviews from Mattiacci stating Ferrari's intentions and the constant holding off by McLaren in announcing their line-up too.
All of Alonso's options have their pros and cons but it seems to me that while he may not be totally happy where he is, the man most perceive to be the best driver on the grid is making the best of a bad situation.
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