Mercedes chief Toto Wolff continues to flirt with the option of hiring Fernando Alonso, despite the fact that the Spaniard is approaching his last years as a Formula 1 driver and opposition from within the his own team.
Asked by Spanish media if Alonso is an option for Mercedes in 2018, Wolff replied, “I’m a big fan of his as a driver, and you can possibly say that he is, if not the best, one of the best on track.”
“His ability in a race is enormous. The energy and motivation are there and I do not think his 35 years is a problem.”
“He is in the final stretch of his career, but that does not mean that he will not be able to win races or titles in the next two or three years. But right now the relationship between our drivers is good.”
“If I could choose Fernando Alonso today as he is, as an individual, it would be much easier than choosing him with by taking into account his history. And that said, it’s something we have to consider.”
“Of course we would have to evaluate the option, you can never say ‘no’ in advance, it would be stupid. But the real situation is that there are other drivers who have priority over Alonso. And right now Valtteri [Bottas] and Lewis [Hamilton] are our number one priority.”
“We are enjoying our junior drivers [Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein] and there are other drivers that I also like. Fernando is part of that group, but nothing more.”
Asked if has had contact with Alonso, Wolff revealed, “We talk on the phone on a regular basis and meet up at the races, as with many other drivers. There was a general conversation about the situation, an exchange of information, how he saw the situation, how we saw him, how his contract was, but he never went further. A contract with him has never been negotiated.”
It is well known that Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda, despite rating Alonso’s ability highly, is not keen to have the double champion in the fold due to the political baggage he inevitably carries with him.
Asked if Hamilton would accept Alonso as teammate, “I think a driver always accepts a challenge, and Fernando would clearly be a challenge. But it is much more than just Lewis feeling at ease with Fernando. All the team dynamics play an important role and you have to take into account the personalities and the character of each one. Everything has to fit, although I think Fernando is a different person today than he was in the past.”
Hamilton and Alonso were McLaren teammates in 2007, a season packed with controversy and acrimony for the Woking outfit which resulted in the Spaniard departing after one year.
Ironically he rejoined the team in 2015 and remains there as their star driver. Of course Hamilton, who won their last title in 2008, left McLaren at the end of 2012 and since joined Mercedes where he has bagged two titles so far.
Alonso scored his two world championships in 2005 and 2006 with Renault but has not won a title since then. His last Formula 1 victory was at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.