Alonso stalls move­ment in F1 driver mar­ket

F1 Racing - - F1 INSIDER -

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

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