In the Driver’s Press Conference yesterday before the Canadian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso stated that if the McLaren-Honda MCL32 is not winning races or challenging to win races by September he will not stay with the outlet for the 2018 season.
Alonso was asked about his plans for the 2018 season ahead of this weekend’s race, and what it would take to keep him at McLaren. In response, the Spanish driver said: “We have to win. If we are winning before September or something like that, I will make a decision, then I will stay. You cannot be 100 per cent now in June about one decision for next year that you don’t even start to consider.”
As has been the case for the last three years of McLaren’s Formula One campaign, it is the Honda power unit that is holding the car back. It took Alonso five races to even manage to see the chequered flag in his 2017 challenger and, with the first quarter of the season complete, McLaren is the only team on the grid to have not yet scored a point. Honda has recently put a delay on their major upgrades coming to their power unit, which should have been on the cars this weekend.
Zak Brown has made his frustrations with Honda clear and it is public knowledge that McLaren is looking at a possible new engine supplier for 2018. This could be enough to make Alonso stay at the Woking-based team if there was some certain assurance that the car would, finally, be competitive next season.
“What we all want is to win, and I think relating to the answer before, Zak’s comments about Honda, is probably what you expect Zak to say.” Alonso said. “He wants to win and he wants to put McLaren [in] position for the championship.
“After three years we are not in that position, so things have to change, for the team. It’s the same with me, I want to win. I joined this project because I wanted to be champion, and we are not in that position, so if you don’t see things changing, if you are not in a competitive position, maybe you change project. That’s the only thing I can say now.”
With what seems like an impossible target to reach, the main assumption is that Alonso will not be racing for McLaren next season, which leads to questions of where he may go. Mercedes and Ferrari would be the best options for the Spaniard to get back to the front of the grid, but with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in the teams respectively it would be a shock to see a seat open up for Alonso. The favourite team at the moment is that Alonso will return to Renault, taking Jolyon Palmer’s seat and pairing with Nico Hulkenberg.
After being highly competitive in his debut of the Indy500 a fortnight ago, Alonso returns to the Formula One grid with much lower prospects of what he can get out of this weekend. With no major upgrades for the engine and still a great deficit in straight-line speed, this weekend is looking to be a difficult one for Alonso and McLaren-Honda.
Alonso has stated that he will not make a decision on where he will be racing next year until after the summer break. However, with the conditions he had set for McLaren to reach in just three months, it seems like the decision has already been made.