Two races into the Formula One season and Fernando Alonso has already hinted that it may be time for another move _ this time to Ferrari.
Title hopes with Renault, the team with which he won two straight F1 titles in 2005 and '06, are essentially over after Sunday's eighth-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Alonso said. The French team has promised Alonso improvements to his car in time for the Barcelona Grand Prix on April 27, but that may not be enough for the Spaniard.
"I always try to be in the best car," Alonso said. "I'm at Renault now because I wanted to go back to winning, like in 2005 and 2006. If not this year, then next year. But I have an option to leave so I can still be in the best possible car, and it is clear that Ferrari's is one of the best."
Alonso was linked with Ferrari following Felipe Massa's poor showing in Sepang.
The Brazilian, who started in pole position, spun off under no pressure while running in second place after the halfway mark of Sunday's race. That left the championship contender with zero points from two races.
"It's early to talk about moves and rumors, but Massa has had two bad races with mistakes and that has kicked off speculation," Alonso said. "It's logical, but as I said, it's too early." Renault managing director Flavio Briatore said it was a "waste of time to get involved in hypothetical daydreams." "Fernando is a great sportsman who will always give his best and rumors I never comment on," Briatore said Tuesday. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali defended Massa, who is under contract through 2010, despite the setback to the Italian team in both the drivers' and the constructors' championships. "We must not over-dramatize: the points table is close after two Grands Prix. I'm convinced that from Felipe's and our point of view, a response won't go amiss in Bahrain," said Domenicali, referring to the next GP on April 6. "Felipe has all the qualities and the capabilities to do well. The championship is long and the team are united, so I see no worries from this aspect."
Ferrari was debriefing the car to be sure a mechanical failure did not cause the spinout.
At the season-opening Australian GP, Massa retired after a collision and world champion Kimi Raikkonen came to a halt with only five laps to race as Ferrari failed to collect any points _ its worst start in 16 years.
Alonso performed well at Melbourne, moving up from 11th on the grid to finish fourth.
Sunday's result was discouraging for the two-time world champion, who rejoined Renault after a turbulent season at McLaren, where he still managed to finish third in the drivers' standings _ one point behind Raikkonen.
"The championship is going to stay more or less the same," Alonso said. "We saw it last year and we see it every year. The cars that win the first two or three races stay on top. We are not going to see big surprises during the year."
Briatore remained optimistic about the team and his star driver. "It does not make sense to judge a car after one or two races. Of course, McLaren and Ferrari have a fast car, but look what happened to Ferrari in Australia," Briatore said. "So we will have to wait and see how it will be at the next couple of races."