Speaking with NBC Sports at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix this past weekend, Alonso indicated he won't be driving under Mercedes power next season. That would rule out the Mercedes team itself, of course, even as the championship frontrunners struggle to smooth out the rivalry between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. If it were this season (or any of the past twenty), that would rule out McLaren as well, but the British team is set to switch to Honda power for next year – an enticing prospect for any driver, since Honda will benefit from developing an all-new power unit where the other engine suppliers have had their development frozen.
Word has it, though, that McLaren boss Ron Dennis is reluctant to meet Alonso's lofty salary demands – especially for just one season. The Spaniard, who drove for McLaren for one season in 2007, is one of the highest-paid drivers on the grid this year, and is likely to be demanding at least as much from a new contract. If ongoing negotiations between Alonso and McLaren break down, his most likely alternatives would include Lotus and Williams, both of which will be running Mercedes engines next season. But it's the one-season part of Dennis' reluctance that has us most intrigued. After all, why wouldn't Alonso be prepared to sign for more than one season with a leading team?
The answer may remain a mystery for the time being, but would seem to point towards another arrangement for Alonso for 2016 and beyond. Kimi Raikkonen is contracted with Ferrari only until the end of 2015, after which the Finn very well might retire altogether. Red Bull has similarly signed Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo for next season, but that could still leave the door open for Alonso to switch to the Renault-powered team for 2016.
Could Alonso simply be taking a break from Ferrari for one season, only to return the next? Or could he be looking for a temporary ride before moving to Red Bull in 2016? If things don't work out with McLaren for next season, and if neither Lotus nor Williams end up enticing him, the Spanish driver could end up taking a sabbatical from F1 for one year before a potentially triumphant return.
In Alonso's own words to NBC Sports, "As I said in Suzuka, when you know the options, you will say 'it was so obvious'. Wait and see."