The protracted drama surrounding Fernando Alonso’s Formula 1 future has finally been resolved, with McLaren confirming that it had signed a contract extension with the two-time World Champion.
Having raced previously for the Woking squad in 2007, the Spaniard returned to McLaren on a three-year deal in 2015 to coincide with the outfit’s reunification with Honda.
The team’s hopes of rekindling the form that swept it to dominating the sport in the late 1980s and early 1990s have gone unfulfilled, in no small part due to Honda’s unreliable and underperforming power units.
Despite the change in leadership, the team has made little tangible progress in the third year of its Honda partnership, prompting both parties to terminate their works agreement. McLaren secured a customer Renault engine supply from Scuderia Toro Rosso, with the Italian team set to become Honda’s works’ team next year.
The divorce with Honda was understood to be a key sticking point in McLaren’s negotiations to retain its star driver, and with the Renault deal finally confirmed it has opened the door for a new contract extension for Alonso to remain.
In truth, however, Alonso had no other more competitive teams either willing or able to sign him on. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing – the only teams to have won Grands Prix in the current turbo-hybrid era – all elected to keep their existing driving line-ups, while the likes of Renault, Force India and Williams cannot afford the sort of retainer that Alonso currently commands.
With McLaren being the only logical option, the two parties finally confirmed a deal had been inked.
“It’s fantastic to be able to continue my relationship with everybody at McLaren,” said Alonso.
“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.
“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 forgotten 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.”
Image via McLaren Honda