Fernando Alonso has ruled out quitting McLaren during this season – but believes the door is still open on a mouth-watering move to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2018.
McLaren have endured a desperately disappointing start to the new campaign, amid ongoing troubles with their beleaguered engine supplier Honda, and the British team are braced for another difficult weekend in China.
Alonso failed to finish at the opening race in Melbourne following a mechanical issue, while his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne crossed the line in last place.
Former Red Bull driver Mark Webber, a friend of Alonso, recently suggested that the double world champion could walk away from McLaren if their fortunes quickly fail to improve.
But in response to Webber’s remarks, Alonso said: “No, that is definitely not true.
“It is normal from the outside for drivers to speak. If one ex-driver or motorbike rider has an interview there is always one question about Alonso and how difficult the situation is.
“Everyone is quite close to me and it is like I have a depression and it is not like that. I am in Formula One. I am delivering at my best. I am more prepared than ever.”
Alonso, who won the last of his two championships more than a decade ago, is in the final season of his three-year deal with McLaren.
Over at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas’s one-year contract, which was signed in the wake of Nico Rosberg’s retirement, could lead to a vacancy at the world champions for 2018.
A move to Mercedes would provide Alonso with the car he so desperately needs to fight for victories and the elusive third title he craves.
It would also see him form a tantalising partnership with Hamilton – the driver whom he fell out with in 2007 and resulted in him leaving McLaren after just one season during his first spell with the team.
“I have nothing to say right now but it is a question for the future,” said Alonso when asked if a move to Mercedes could be on the cards.
“Nothing is ruled out in life. There are no problems with Lewis. We respect each other a lot and the problems we had in 2007 were because the team was not managed properly.”
Hamilton spoke in Australia of his admiration for Alonso and claimed the sport needs to see the 35-year-old Spaniard back at the sharp end of the grid.
“He is a great champion of our generation,” Alonso said of Hamilton.
“It is fantastic to have him on the track and what he means to Formula One – not only because of the titles – but also the publicity we have outside the circuits with his lifestyle and his character is good for the sport.
“We like to compete and beat the best. It is something we had with Michael (Schumacher) when he was here. It was fantastic to win titles when Michael was on the track.”
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