Amidst continuing speculation linking him to a future in scarlet, and with his 2009 chances already looking to be limited by the deficiencies of Renault's new R29, leading figures have insisted that Fernando Alonso's rightful place in Formula 1 is with Ferrari.

It has been suggested for a number of months that it is purely a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' the double world champion winds up at Maranello, with some having even surmised that he could replace fellow former title-winner Kimi Raikkonen at the Scuderia this year, following the Finn's lacklustre campaign in 2008.

Though the 27-year-old has pledged his immediate future in the top flight to the R?gie, the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone described Alonso in an interview with Spanish newspaper Diario AS as 'one of the world's best drivers who should one day demonstrate his quality with Ferrari'.

Alonso's compatriot Rafael Nadal, who clinched his first Australian Open men's singles tennis title in Melbourne at the weekend, agreed, stating: "Ferrari should have the best driver in the world, and that is Fernando."

The man from Oviedo was also praised, meanwhile, by recently-retired Red Bull Racing ace David Coulthard, with the 13-time grand prix-winner effusive about the manner in which Alonso 'continued working and eventually achieved two wins at the end of the season' last year in what was patently far from the best car on the starting grid.