In the McLaren F1 Team‘s most recent attempt to get Fernando Alonso to extend his current contract with them, it has come out that they would be happy for the Spaniard to race in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside his Formula 1 contract.
Off the back of his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, Alonso has made it clear that he desires to achieve the ‘triple crown’ of victories: Monaco Grand Prix, Indy500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Spanish driver has already taken victory at the Monaco Grand Prix twice; in 2006 and 2007, and set about pursuing the ‘triple crown’ early this year when he skipped the Monaco Grand Prix to take part in the 2017 Indy500.
It is no secret that McLaren is desperate to keep Alonso in their team for next year. The Woking-based outfit has recently split with their engine suppliers Honda and will have Renault engines next year; something that Alonso had hinted at being important to him staying at the team. but with Alonso stating that he wants to be able to win in whatever he races next year and that he has a lot of options on the table it looks like McLaren will need to sweeten the deal.
It is unlikely that Alonso will skip the Monaco Grand Prix to ace at Indy again next year, especially if the new package can place Alonso at the front of the grid like he wants it to. However, the 24 Hours of Le Mans occurs once again on an F1-free weekend, meaning that Alonso would have a gap in his schedule.
McLaren probably see this offer as a way for Alonso to see they believe they will have a competitive package to help him win his elusive third World Championship, but also give him an extra incentive to let them retain him next year.
“Le Mans 2018 is too early for McLaren,” said Zak Brown, when asked about who Alonso would race for if the Spaniard did decide to take on the blue-ribboned Le Mans. “We have our hands full with getting our F1 team back on track.
“But we have spoken about it, and if it is something he would like to do, in the right circumstances, we would be open to that.”
However, it was made clear by Brown that Alonso would only get the green light to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours so long as it does not affect their F1 championship campaign. Alonso made it clear in May when he went to do the Indy 500 that he would not be skipping the round if he was in a competitive position in F1, so it does look like McLaren and Alonso are on the same page on this aspect.
Alonso had a meal with the McLaren chiefs Friday night to discuss the final aspects of the deal for a contract extension. It is predicted at the moment that Alonso will only extend for a single year, taking him to the end of the 2018 season. Alonso has also been vocal about wanting to talk to Renault about their engine for next year before signing any contracts.
But the meal seemed to make Brown confident about Alonso’s retention to the team and that he would still be a highly paid asset. “We are very close with Fernando,” he said. “He is very happy with the direction of the team in general, and he is one of the highest paid drivers in the sport. For us to retain him, he will continue to be one of the highest paid drivers in the sport.
“The big boys cost big money. We have very committed shareholders, that want us to win races, and that is the mandate and remit they have given us – to do what it takes to win. We will work together to deal with the financials. We will ultimately come to whatever financial arrangement we need to.
“Eric [Boullier] has a good budget and we are spending more on capital expenditure. We are continuing to unleash money as he requests it, so we are not going to compromise our racing product.”