Thursday, 17 may 2018, 04:30 , by Matthew Scott
While much of the forecasting of the make-up of the 2019 grid has focused on Daniel Ricciardo's movements and whether Valtteri Bottas or Kimi Raikkonen can hold on at Mercedes and Ferrari respectively, could the real story be developing just behind them, with Fernando Alonso at McLaren?
Like Ricciardo, Bottas and Raikkonen, Alonso too is out of contract at the end of the year - a year in which he has added a full calendar in the World Endurance Championship to the intense globe-hopping of Formula 1.
The two-time world champion's passion for motorsport is clearly undimmed, for proof just look at his jubilant celebrations as he won the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on his WEC debut recently.
It was particularly interesting, just five days later, to hear Alonso speak of his "sadness" at F1's modern-day predictability, in which McLaren remain firmly outside of the conversation for major honours at any weekend, despite their more powerful and more reliable power units.
Alonso's importance to McLaren is clear. Only title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel can match his record of scoring points in every race so far this year, while Stoffel Vandoorne's promise appears to be fading.
The Belgian has been beaten in qualifying and raceday at all five grands prix this year in what is already F1's most one-sided intra-team battle.
Team boss Zak Brown is a shrewd mover, indulging Alonso's 'Triple Crown' ambitions by letting him combine F1 duties with trips to the Indianapolis 500 and now a WEC season in which he will have two stabs at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
But talks over keeping the Spaniard in the team will not start until the middle of the season, a point which Alonso has previously said he expects to be challenging for podiums.
Brown's charm offensive has kicked up a gear since Alonso's press conference in Barcelona, but it is the mechanics and engineers who will be crucial in keeping him not only in the team, but possibly in the sport altogether.
- He was gone, then he was back, then he was gone again, now he's back again! Felipe Massa has signed up with Formula E team Venturi, part-owned by which Hollywood A-lister...?
- Jean Todt remains confident he can convince Ferrari to stay in F1 beyond 2020, meanwhile in bad news for the Scuderia, they will have to take those snazzy halo-mounted mirrors off their car in Monaco.
- Mercedes' sudden ability to make tyres work for them turned heads in Barcelona, but Sebastian Vettel says any conspiracy theories can be put to bed. The Silver Arrows might not have been quite as comfortable as we all thought, though, having claimed Valtteri bottas was in "big, big trouble" towards the end of the Spanish GP.