No Alonso opt-out clause
Marco Mattiacci, the Ferrari Team Principal, has denied that Fernando Alonso's contract with the Scuderia for next season contains a performance-related opt-out clause.
Mattiacci, still settling into his new role as the figurehead of F1's most famous marque following the sudden ousting of Stefano Domenicali in April, announced to Sky F1 two weeks ago that both Alonso and, after a profoundly underwhelming first season back at Maranello, Kimi Raikkonen would be retained for 2015.
Paddock gossipers immediately questioned the validity of Mattiacci's announcement, with Alonso's long-term contract with the Scuderia reputed to offer the Spaniard an escape clause based on the team's position – currently third, ten points ahead of a resurgent Williams – in the Constructors' Championship.
But in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News HQ's Rachel Brookes at the team's Maranello base, Mattiacci has insisted that the speculation is wide of the mark.
"It's not true," he confirmed when pressed over the purported existence of the escape clause. "We have contracts with the drivers, they are assets, and I think definitely we need to work altogether to have better cars - that's our direction."
Alonso himself earlier this week, albeit with the noteworthy caveat that he had no intention to leave the team "at the moment".
"I want to win here and finish the job that we started some years ago and we will see what the future comes," the 33-year-old told Sky Sports.
Confirmation that both Raikkonen, who has failed to get to grips with the aggressive F14 T since replacing Felipe Massa, and Alonso will remain at Ferrari is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the 2015 driver market, albeit in the sense of effectively closing down the top end of the pyramid. With McLaren's overtures towards Alonso seemingly rebuffed, the team are expected to offer Jenson Button a one-year contract extension, a decision which would all-but confirm that none of the sport's leading teams will change drivers for next year.
Nico Rosberg recently extended his deal at Mercedes, for whom Lewis Hamilton is also contracted to drive next term, while Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, the surprise package of 2014, will stay on at Red Bull. At Lotus, Pastor Maldonado has already been confirmed for another twelve months, with the team's anticipated switch to Mercedes power in the place of McLaren, along with the absence of any obvious attractive alternatives, will most likely persuade Romain Grosjean to continue with the Enstone outfit as well.
Further afield, Toro Rosso have appointed Max Verstappen to partner Daniil Kvyat next year when the teenager will become the youngest-ever driver in the history of Formula 1 at the age of 17.
Yet while the status quo is set to be maintained for 2015, it will be all change in two years' time when the contracts of Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen and, possibly, Alonso are due to expire, a prospect which is certain to trigger a frantic round of musical chairs with the success – or otherwise – of Honda's return in 2014 likely to be a pivotal factor in the considerations and manoeuvrings of the sport's leading players.