McLaren and Alonso play down reunification reports as Honda era looms

Formula One World Championship

McLaren is at the centre of a several speculative reports in the Bahrain paddock, one of which suggests that Fernando Alonso may be on his way back to the Woking outfit in the not too distant future.

The influential sports daily Marca has made a link between McLaren and the former Formula 1 sponsor Movistar, a Spanish mobile phone operator.

The report seems to have been triggered in part by an official McLaren post on Twitter on Friday featuring a photo (above) of Ron Dennis sitting in the Bahrain paddock with Fernando Alonso in 2007.

The caption read: “Another pic of Ron smiling”.

A McLaren source strenuously played down the significance of the tweet. But it does follow hot on the heels not only of Dennis’ return to the team, but also reports last year that Alonso could be wooed back to McLaren for the impending Honda era.

Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday 4 April 2014.

The Alonso camp immediately played down the connection.

“Fernando is happy where he is [at Ferrari]“, his manager Luis Garcia Abad insisted. But Alonso was not totally unequivocal when asked by Spain’s Diario AS if there is “any chance” that he will leave Ferrari at the end of the year.

“No, I think not,” said the double world champion, who admitted that he arrived at the great Maranello team in 2010 expecting to win a title. “When I came to Ferrari I won my first race here and I thought I would win the championship in that year or another year. Definitely.”

“That was the recent history of Ferrari, in 2010 Ferrari was very strong, I came, I won the first race, everything seemed to be in the right direction.”

Despite yet another season having begun in which a third title for Alonso appears unlikely, the driver insists he does not regret joining Ferrari.

“No, there are many decisions in your career and your life that you make and that’s it. You never know what would have happened if I had accepted offers from Red Bull or Toyota or whoever,” he added.

Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday 4 April 2014.

Meanwhile, in the wake of title sponsor Vodafone’s departure, the British team ran prominent Mobil 1 branding in Australia, before Esso took over the space on the sidepods of the MP4-29 in Malaysia.

Now in Bahrain, the logo of Bahrain flag carrier Gulf Air is on the car, triggering the conclusion that McLaren might continue their new policy of livery changes throughout the 2014 season.

A spokesman would not comment on future liveries to be expected on the MP4-28. But Sky News reports that McLaren are in title sponsor talks with a Japanese giant called Rakuten, owner of the well-known UK retailer play.com.

The report said that the deal could be worth more than $60 million per year to the Woking based team, but a spokesman said,”McLaren never comment on unsubstantiated reports of this kind.” (GP247-GMM)

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