After an extraordinary seven days since Nico Rosberg announced his retirement, Fernando Alonso confidant Flavio Briatore has played down the possibility of the Spaniard switching to Mercedes.
The Italian insists that Alonso will honour his Formula 1 contract with McLaren.
There has been intense speculation over the past week that Alonso would seek to join Mercedes after Rosberg made the shock announcement that he would retire from F1 just five days after he won the 2016 world championship.
Such a move would set up the fascinating spectacle of reuniting the Spaniard with Lewis Hamilton ten years after their explosive season as teammates at McLaren in 2007.
But Briatore, Alonso’s longtime manager and team boss at Renault when he won the 2005 and 2006 world titles, told Gazzetta dello Sport that the 35-year-old would see out the final year of his deal with McLaren, which began after he left Ferrari at the end of 2014.
“How is it that, whenever a seat becomes available, Fernando is always mentioned?” asked Briatore. “But there is a contract and we respect it.”
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff added to the speculation surrounding Alonso’s future when he told Sky Sports earlier this week that the 32-time F1 winner was an option his squad is considering as a replacement for Rosberg.
He said: “You have to consider Fernando. He is a driver I respect a lot. He combines talent, speed and experience. It’s all there.
“But he is in a contract with McLaren-Honda at the moment and we just need to weigh all the other options up.”
Following the news of Rosberg’s retirement, McLaren issued its own ‘hands-off’ warning that Alonso would not be leaving the British team and its new boss Zak Brown insisted that he was not concerned about the situation.
He said:”We have a contract with Fernando and he is very happy. Obviously he wants to be winning races, as do we, but I am not worried about that scenario.”
Alonso left Ferrari after failing to win a third world title during his five-season stint with the Scuderia, a situation that frustrated him after two near misses in 2010 and 2012.
He moved to McLaren for the start of 2015, which proved to be the team’s worst season for 35 years as it struggled with Honda’s underpowered V6 turbo engine.
But Briatore denied that Alonso’s current situation at McLaren was similar to the circumstances that led to him leaving Ferrari at the end 2014.
He said: “The situation was different and we had an agreement with [former Ferrari president] Luca di Montezemolo.
“If we didn’t win the title in 2014, we would be free. Luca kept that promise. It’s true that [then team principal Marco] Mattiacci offered us a three-year renewal, but we refused.”
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