The Japanese Grand Prix this weekend could determine the outcome of this year's title race, but also witness the future career destinations of two former world champions. After much speculation, Renault have confirmed they will be losing the services of Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard finished third in the Singapore Grand Prix, but is expected to be unveiled as a Ferrari driver in Suzuka during the next leg of the Formula One calendar and a race which could see Jenson Button claim his first drivers' title. It appears the Italian team are close to agreeing a deal that would release Kimi Raikkonen from the remaining one year of his contract and allow Alonso to partner Felipe Massa for the 2010 campaign.
Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, has had to fend off questions about this move all season and admits they are keen to put an end to the debate with Suzuka a "possibility" for the announcement. "We don't want to wait too long," he said. The Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is a known admirer of Alonso, saying: "He has won titles, and I've always thought that sooner or later, all great drivers come to Ferrari."
Renault's temporary managing director Jean-Francois Caubet revealed Alonso, a two-time world champion, was heading for pastures new, ending his second spell with the team. "We will miss him, but he will miss us," he said. Alonso's departure will spark a driver merry-go-round for next season with the Polish driver Robert Kubica tipped to switch from BMW Sauber to replace him at Renault. Raikkonen is expected to replace Heikki Kovalainen at McLaren-Mercedes, where he spent four years before leaving for Ferrari in 2007, winning the title in his first season. The Finn would form a formidable pairing with Lewis Hamilton, but spark fears of potential clashes between the two.
That proved the case when Alonso and Hamilton competed together for McLaren in 2007. Their rivalry enabled Raikkonen to pip both of them to the championship by just one point. If the Finn does join, Norbert Haug, the president of Mercedes-Benz motorsport, says the team will be able to handle them. He said: "Whatever you can do to get the best available drivers, that is what you have to do. It's a question of money, it's a question of capability, a question of the amount of talent. Managing two megastars, I don't think that honestly it was a problem."