GRINNING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK: A $50-million payout from Ferrari and an Audi F1 drive - can all that be true? Image: AFP
LONDON, England - A major sponsor of the Lotus Formula 1 team has further muddied already confusing speculation about Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso's next move.
Most insiders believe the Spaniard and Ferrari have already dissolved their contract, paving the way for Sebastian Vettel to join Kimi Raikkonen in the Italian team's garage in 2015.
Alonso's future, however, remains unclear amid claims he will either switch to McLaren-Honda for a year before bidding for a Mercedes seat in 2016. Or simply take a year off - though it might not be so simple...
WOW! AUDI F1 TEAM?
Spain's Marca claims the delay in an official announcement by Ferrari is because the only way Maranello can clear Alonso's seat for Vettel is by paying the Spaniard $50-million to compensate for the remainder of his deal.
The latest rumour is that that, with Stefano Domenicali already headed to Ingolstadt, Audi could be preparing to quit Le Mans and start up an F1 team in 2015 with Alonso at its heart.
France's Auto Hebdo quoted a spokesman for the VW-owned marque as playing down the reports. "These rumours have been around for several years," the spokesman said. "It is still only pure speculation - we are engaged in the WEC, DTM and GT and will add the Audi Sport TT Cup to our programme in 2015."
Meanwhile, although Lotus says it is about to re-sign Romain Grosjean for 2015, the team's Coca Cola-owned energy drink sponsor Burn is now getting mischievously involved in the Alonso speculation.
"We think Alonso could look great in black and gold, don't you?" Burn said on Twitter, having PhotoShopped an image of Alonso wearing Lotus F1 overalls.