Alonso reveals Mercedes contact after Rosberg retirement

McLaren's new-look model has a longer nose and features a retro colour scheme of orange and black.
McLaren's new-look model has a longer nose and features a retro colour scheme of orange and black.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Fernando Alonso has revealed that he spoke to Mercedes about the possibility of joining the world champions after the shock retirement of Nico Rosberg.

The Spaniard said that, in the days following the retirement of the newly crowned 2016 champion, there were "a couple of days that I had some conversations and phone calls arrived to me".

A move to Mercedes would have reignited the two-time world champion's bitter 2007 rivalry with Lewis Hamilton, when they were both at McLaren. It led to such a fractious relationship that Alonso left after just one season.

Hamilton was involved in the talks about Rosberg's replacement, however, and it is unlikely that the three-time world champion would have wanted another senior driver to join him.

Alonso rejoined McLaren in 2015 and, despite not being on the podium since, he said on Friday that he was "happy" with the team and not looking to move.

"Let's say that Mercedes, after the surprise of Rosberg, had to do a little check of everyone, which is understandable," he said at the unveiling of McLaren's 2017 car - sporting the orange associated with the team's first car to win a Formula One race in 1968 - at their headquarters in Woking, 40km from London.

"But my situation was very clear. I have this year at McLaren-Honda, I am happy here and there was no point to talk any more for any possibility."

The 35-year-old, however, has just a year left on his McLaren deal, so it is possible that he could move to Mercedes later this year.

The driver market will be open at the end of this season with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen's deals ending at Ferrari and Rosberg's replacement, Valtteri Bottas, on a one-year option at Mercedes.

Alonso, however, insists that he is not thinking about such a move yet.

"Until August or September there is no point talking about anything because I will be fully concentrated on this year's championship," said the 2005 and 2006 world champion. "Maybe we will find out that a new team is dominating Formula One. I want to be a world champion and that is what I train for.

"I have been running and biking at minus 10 degrees in the middle of the snow for the last month."

This season's McLaren challenger will need to be considerably quicker if the team want to keep their top driver.

Since teaming up with Honda, McLaren have struggled for performance, finishing ninth in the constructors' championship in 2015 and sixth last season.

Alonso will race alongside Stoffel Vandoorne this year after the 24-year-old Belgian replaced Britain's former world champion Jenson Button.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline 'Alonso reveals Mercedes contact after Rosberg retirement'. Print Edition | Subscribe