Alonso hints at McLaren stay with new en­gine deal im­mi­nent

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - JEROME PUGMIRE THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

SIN­GA­PORE — Fer­nando Alonso could end up stay­ing at McLaren.

Amid grow­ing spec­u­la­tion that McLaren will split with Honda and work with Re­nault as its en­gine sup­plier next year, the two-time For­mula One cham­pion hinted he is pre­pared to con­tinue with the team for an­other year.

“Af­ter they take a de­ci­sion, I will take mine,” the Span­ish driver said Thurs­day at the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix. “I want to stay loyal to them and not make any de­ci­sions with­out them first mak­ing their de­ci­sions.”

McLaren is in its third trou­ble­some year with Honda and there has been scant sign of any im­prove­ment. Alonso has grown in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated at Honda’s lack of re­li­a­bil­ity, com­plet­ing only three races this sea­son with a best fin­ish of sixth.

Alonso has scored 10 points so far, while McLaren team­mate Stof­fel Van­doorne has man­aged only one.

Re­nault has a far more re­li­able en­gine than Honda, with Nico Hulken­berg con­sis­tently in the points for Re­nault and com­plet­ing 10 of 13 races. With Alonso be­hind the wheel, and us­ing a Re­nault en­gine, McLaren could ex­pect a sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance boost next year.

De­spite be­ing one of the old­est driv­ers on the grid, the 36-year-old Spa­niard is still widely con­sid­ered to be one of the best. He has done well in try­ing cir­cum­stances with McLaren and re­mains am­bi­tious.

“If I re­main in F1 it is be­cause I be­lieve I can win next year,” said Alonso, whose last of 32 F1 wins was at the Span­ish GP in 2013 when driv­ing for Fer­rari. “I will not be around in any se­ries to be fight­ing for top 10.”

With Alonso likely stay­ing at McLaren, Re­nault is ex­pected to sign Span­ish driver Car­los Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso as a re­place­ment for Bri­tish driver Jolyon Palmer, who has failed to score a point this sea­son.

Palmer ex­pects to see out the sea­son, at least, amid re­ports he could be re­placed im­mi­nently.

“I’ve got seven more races this year,” Palmer said. “I’ll be rac­ing un­til Abu Dhabi.”

Of­fi­cial en­gine changes are ex­pected to be an­nounced on Fri­day. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Re­nault, McLaren, Honda and Red Bull are all sched­uled to ap­pear at a news con­fer­ence af­ter prac­tice ends in Sin­ga­pore.

Toro Rosso, a feeder team to Red Bull, is set to split with Re­nault next year and switch to Honda en­gines un­til 2020.

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