Alonso Resigns With McLaren For 2018
Following speculation that Fernando Alonso could leave McLaren-Honda and go into another formula was put to rest Thursday in Austin, Texas, as the Spaniard has signed for another season with the team, joining Belgian pilot Stoffel Vandoorne for the 2018 year.
"It's fantastic to be able to continue my relationship with everybody at McLaren. It was always where my heart was telling me to stay, and I really feel at home here. This is a fantastic team, full of incredible people, with a warmth and friendliness that I've never experienced elsewhere in Formula 1. I'm incredibly happy to be racing here,'' Alonso said to ESPN F1.
“Just as important, McLaren has the technical resource and financial strength to be able to very quickly win races and world championships in F1. Although the last few years have not been easy, we have never forgot-ten how to win, and I believe we can achieve that again soon. The last three years have given us the momentum to plan and build for the future, and I'm looking forward to that journey. I'm excited for our future together - and I'm already working hard to make it a success."
The deciding factor for Alonso to remain with the team for his fourth season after moving over from Ferrari in 2014, was the replacement of the Honda engines next season by Renault. The French company ditched the engines from the Toro Rosso team to be replaced by the Japanese powerplant. With an engine that Alonso is familiar with, it should kick start McLaren’s ability to move up the grid in 2018, following three seasons at the Woking, England, giant of not even finishing on the podium.
Alonso even at one time thought that maybe formula one racing was not going to be possible anymore, following a stint at the Indianapolis 500 last May.
"After Indianapolis, when I came back to F1 I had doubts if I could continue in Formula One and if I should look at other series," he said. "In the August break I had a few conversations with other teams just to know their projects, their situations -- and some of them are winning teams this year -- so there were some conversations there. But something inside told me to stay at McLaren. I think this year we have proved the chassis is capable of fighting at the front, we saw a lot of progress and I think the organization is much more logical in terms of winning in the short-term in Formula One. After the summer break, maybe around Spa or Monza, I was ready to make an extension of the contract but at that time the team was not ready. They were in a changing situation with the power unit and then they decided to change to Renault.
I made sure with the Renault people, because I have a very strong relationship [with them] for many years now, what the situation was with the power unit. Making sure that there was nothing crazy going on -- and also the Red Bull in the last couple of races gave us extra motivation [that it could be a winning engine]. "They were not very serious [talks with other teams], but there were some."
McLaren itself has changed over the last year, replacing Ron Dennis with American Zak Brown. Racing Director Eric Boullier already has assured everyone that the combination of Alonso and Vandoorne is one of the best duet formula one drivers on the grid.
"With Fernando, you really can't ask for a better driver to deliver a result for you on a Sunday afternoon - and I think everybody in Formula 1 would acknowledge that sentiment. He's always been clear to me that this is a team he loves, and that his heart has always been set on staying. Today's announcement shows that he's fully committed to racing and winning as a McLaren driver, and, while we've often shared his frustrations over the past few years, we now feel that we can deliver on our promise to give him a competitive car next season. Consistency of driver line-up is one of those small but essential elements that really helps a team to maintain momentum, and, with Fernando and Stoffel, we're lucky to be writing a fresh chapter with what we believe to be the best driver line-up in Formula 1."
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.