Inside Line: What now for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Amid all the hype of finding a new team to move to so he can pursue his dream of a third Formula 1 world title, Fernando Alonso has run out of options of finding an outfit sure of fighting for wins in 2018, which is his well reported target this summer.

Amid the McLaren-Honda woes Fernando has made no secret of his desire to ditch the project that has brought him only misery over the past three years and find a winning outfit where he can ply his trade.

But the latest snub has come from no less than Ferrari big boss Sergio Marchionne who said in Austria, “Alonso may well have shown the desire to return, but he did not find the right response from our part. We’re not interested.”

The Maranello team, where Fernando spent five years, clearly do not have him in their future plans despite reports to the contrary. So scratch Ferrari off his wishlist.

Mercedes are another obvious destination, but that door is hardly open as Austrian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas is increasingly likely to stay with them long-term, while it is highly unlikely that triple F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton will vacate the seat that has brought him so much success.

Add to that Niki Lauda’s views on Fernando’s plight, “I do not think Ferrari wants to have him again. He left with a contract. The same thing happened with [McLaren-Mercedes].”

“He is fast, aggressive, in this way he is the best. But unfortunately, drivers sometimes cannot prove they are the best by the decisions they make, and Fernando has made many mistakes.”

“We have drivers who do their job, so if we win with Hamilton and Bottas, we don’t need a replacement,” explained Lauda.

Scratch Mercedes off Fernando’s wishlist.

At 35 Fernando hardly fits the profile of a Red Bull driver. Furthermore the energy drinks outfit philosophy is to promote from within the ranks of their junior driver and they have a pipeline packed with drivers ready and itching to step up to the senior team.

Furthermore, Max Verstappen is staying for at least another year confirmed by his father Jos in Austria, while Daniel Ricciardo is also committed to the team until at least the end of 2018. According to the team these contracts are water-tight.

It is also well known that Red Bull driver boss Helmut Marko is not a fan of the political baggage that Fernando packs with him.

Scratch them off the Spaniard’s wishlist.

The three serious Formula 1 team options that remain for him are Renault or Williams or staying at McLaren. However none of these are likely to be winning outfits next year or even the year thereafter.

Renault, with whom he won his two F1 world championship titles, would be a breath of fresh air for Fernando and as the only other factory team perhaps his best option. But by their own admission they are expecting to be victory contenders only in 2019.

Williams are also a prospect, but as long as they are Mercedes customers victories (even podiums) will be scarce and hard to come by.

Although Fernando’s talent may carry him and the team to more success than they have enjoyed in recent years. But they will hardly be title contenders.

Remaining with McLaren-Honda is also viable despite the problems and lack of solutions. Honda have winning pedigree and huge resources.

It is interesting to note that the barrage of criticism directed at Honda by McLaren bosses, around the time of Monaco and Canada, has ceased with their comments taking on a much more conciliatory tone. Something has happened within that relationship…

Having witnessed first hand those heady years of McLaren-Honda domination in the late eighties, something inside me expects Honda to find that ‘magic switch’ turning them into an almighty force in F1 once again. As unlikely as this may seem, if anyone can do it Honda can.

In terms of decision making Fernando’s career is littered with dubious choices and blatant mistakes. How cruel would it be if he departed the team and next year Honda produce the best power unit on the grid?

Those are Fernando’s options in Formula 1 beyond 2017. Sadly for him plug-and-play with an established winning team is unlikely in 2018 .

To the last resort: a big bucks offer to finish his career in Indycars is also a logical scenario for him. 

Perhaps spearheading a McLaren return to the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing, while firing up his legacy in America which was born with his impressive first foray at this year’s Indy 500.

Should Fernando choose to go the USA route, his well publicised dream to win a third Formula 1 title will be over.

Big Question: What now for Fernando?