McLaren looks set to be the centre of the 2015 Formula 1 ‘silly season’, with the Woking team believed to be actively courting the services of both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso as it prepares to welcome the return of Honda, according to a report in AUTOSPORT.
While both drivers are currently under contract with Red Bull Racing (end of 2015) and Ferrari (end of 2016) respectively, McLaren is ready to wait until their contracts come to an end if it is unable to wrangle an early departure for either driver.
While both World Champions would have fairly iron-clad deals in place with their current employers, both could have early exit clauses built in if their respective teams fail to achieve certain performance clauses.
Reigning four-time champion Vettel currently languishes in sixth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings, claiming just two podium finishes and bearing the brunt of Red Bull Racing’s reliability and performance issues.
Alonso, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation at Ferrari where – for the fifth year in a row – the Italian team has failed to provide him with a car capable of seriously challenging for a third World Championship title. At 33, the Spaniard is one of the sport’s elder statesmen, and only has a few years left in his driving career.
McLaren has thus far delayed sorting out its 2015 driver line-up until it knows the plans of Vettel and Alonso, leaving its incumbent pairing of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen forced to wait and consider themselves ‘second best’ options.
The situation is hardly one of great comfort to Button – who currently sits eighth in the standings with a single podium finish to his credit – who conceded that he may be forced into retirement if he is replaced.
Given Magnussen is locked into a longer-term deal with McLaren and seen as something of a star of the future, Button looks set to get the chop of Vettel or Alonso can make an early switch.
The Englishman has raced for McLaren since 2010, joining the team as a high-profile signing after winning the 2009 World Championship with the Brawn GP outfit.
“We haven’t sat down and talked about it,” he told the BBC when asked about his negotiations beyond the end of 2014, when his current contract expires.
“If I have to retire at the end of the season then so be it, but I feel I have so much more to give and I can’t imagine life without motorsport and especially Formula 1.”
According to sources, McLaren believes it will have firm answers from both Vettel and Alonso before the final flyaway races kick off towards the end of September.
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