As the motorsport world waits with bated breath for news on whether McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Fernando Alonso will still be racing for the squad in 2018, the Woking based team have confirmed they have a back-up plan in place, should the Spaniard decide to leave.
It is well known that Alonso is not happy with the current unreliability and lack of power from the Honda engine that has been ongoing for three seasons now, and is pushing for McLaren to break away from the Japanese manufacturer to give them some semblance of a chance to fight higher up the order next year.
The Spaniard has stated that all though he has confidence in McLaren, he will only remain with the team if they can give him a competitive car next year, something he does not currently feel will be possible if Honda are still in the frame. McLaren are in the midst’s of trying to break away from their contract with the Japanese manufacturer early, and make the switch to Renault, but so far, that has been a complicated process.
Should Alonso decide enough is enough and move elsewhere in 2018 however, according to Reuters, McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown made it clear to reporters at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, that they do have other options in the pipeline.
“We’ve got another plan.
“He [Alonso] hasn’t signed with us yet, negotiations are ongoing and going very well. But you’ve got to have a Plan B and C in the event that you don’t reach an agreement, and we’ve got those plans.”
Despite Alonso’s vocal opinions on Honda, be that over team radio or in interviews with the media, Brown has stated that the Spaniard has not made any demands on the engine front, and his comments will not sway any decision taken by McLaren.
“Fernando’s not giving us any ultimatum [over Honda]. All he wants is a competitive car.
“I’ll be spending more time with him and these decisions can be based on whether he thinks we’re going to be competitive or not. He’s not going to be engine-specific in his desires.”
If McLaren and Honda cannot convince Alonso that the Japanese manufacturer can deliver next year, then it is likely he will walk away. Where that would be too though, is a key question.
With the top three teams all set to keep their current driver line-up’s in 2018, the only real options open to the Spaniard in Formula 1 would be to replace the out of favour Jolyon Palmer at the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, or possibly take the seat of former team-mate Felipe Massa at Williams Martini Racing.
The double world champion was rumoured to have been in talks with the Grove based squad recently, but would either team realistically be able to provide the competitive machinery Alonso is looking for?
That then leaves IndyCar as the other obvious choice, following the Spaniard’s recent Indy 500 outing, but the Spaniard has previously stated that his main goal is to remain in F1 in 2018, so until he makes his decision known, we can only really speculate.
From McLaren’s standpoint, they claim to have other options in the pipeline to cover that eventuality, junior protégé Lando Norris is not one of them however, as Brown explained.
“Our current plans are to put him in Formula 2.
“Certainly I think he’s fast enough to be in Formula One, but you need to make sure not to rush things and give him enough experience.
“So he’s definitely our star of the future and I don’t think we’d put him with another Formula One team.”
The American also did not rule out sticking with Honda next year, who he states have been working hard to raise their game ahead of 2018.
“They’re spending more money, so they’re doing what it takes to be more competitive. They’re doing different stuff now… they’ve acknowledged they are working with some outside consultants.
“We are going to sit down next week with guys that are much smarter on power units than myself and take a view on what we see their plans are and what they’ve accomplished and then take a view.”