Alonso stalls movement in F1 driver market
The double world champion is close to scoring a McLaren drive, but is also chasing a seat at his preferred team, Mercedes
The Formula 1 futures of Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen remained up in the air as F1 Racing closed for press, as Alonso continued to hold off on making a decision about where he’ll go next.
The double champion has negotiated a release from his Ferrari contract two years early, a move that triggered the Scuderia’s swoop for Sebastian Vettel. However, while Vettel’s departure from Red Bull has been officially announced, his arrival at Ferrari, and Alonso’s departure, has not.
Some sources insist Alonso has a deal in place with Honda, who begin an engine partnership with McLaren in 2015. But McLaren insist they have no signed contract with him.
Other insiders claim McLaren are waiting for Alonso to make up his mind, and that the details of the deal – length of contract, retainer and so on – are agreed. Others say these issues are the cause of the delay, Alonso preferring a short contract with the freedom to switch to Mercedes for 2016 if possible. While McLaren wait for an answer, the F1 careers of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen hang in the balance. Button is already exploring other options, and has spoken to Porsche about a possible move to sportscars.
Mercedes insiders say Alonso’s preference is to join them – ideally in 2015, but more likely in 2016 – and that he wants to leave his options open to ensure that remains a possibility. A move to McLaren would not preclude that, since contractual performance clauses would dictate that he was free to leave were the team not in a given position by a given date.
Alonso’s predicament was summed up by one senior Mercedes insider as follows: “He’s desperate to drive for us. But we just don’t need him. We already have one great driver and one very good driver – and we all remember what happened at McLaren in 2007.” With Nico Rosberg under contract until the end of 2016, Alonso’s chances of moving to Mercedes depend on whether Lewis Hamilton can agree a new contract from 2016 onwards.
Mercedes say they’ve agreed with Hamilton that they won’t discuss a new deal until after the end of the season. Team and driver say they want to continue together, but this could depend on Hamilton’s salary demands. Additionally, he may prefer to move elsewhere in 2016, and a seat at Ferrari would then be available alongside Vettel.
If Hamilton does leave, Alonso is not Mercedes’ only option. They are also keeping a close eye on Williams driver Valtteri Bottas.
Alonso’s departure from Ferrari and replacement by Vettel has yet to be officially announced, and the Spaniard’s move to McLaren is not guaranteed
Waiting game: Button and Magnussen’s drives hinge on Alonso’s decision