Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Alonso could return to F1 in a McLaren-Mercedes – but don’t expect him to

2021 F1 season

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Could McLaren’s deal to use Mercedes power units in 2021 offer Fernando Alonso the chance to return to Formula 1 with a package capable of winning the world championship?

Alonso’s inability to get his hands on a Mercedes power unit during the V6 hybrid turbo era was a big part of the reason why he was unable to repeat his championship successes of 2005 and 2006. That was rooted in the catastrophic fall-out of his single season with the three-pointer star in 2007.

His role in the ‘spygate’ affair, which saw McLaren fined a record $100 million by the FIA for using confidential information belonging to rivals Ferrari, soured his relationship with Mercedes. Alonso was involved both in using the information and revealing its existence to the FIA.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff previously alluded to Alonso’s “history” with Mercedes being part of the reason why he wasn’t considered for a drive at the team, even as recently as last season.

But speaking following the announcement of McLaren’s deal to use Mercedes engines from 2021, Wolff said the ‘Spygate’ affair was not a consideration in their new relationship with the Woking squad.

“I think that [was] a dark time for McLaren and Mercedes back in the day,” said Wolff when asked about Spygate. “It cost us both quite some money to remedy the actions of individuals. And in this respect there is no feelings at all, we have moved on, it’s 11, 12 years later and it hasn’t played any role in the decision.”

While Alonso, who is yet to confirm his plans for 2020, may not be about to get his hands on a works Mercedes, could he drive a Mercedes-powered McLaren in 2021? McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown gave an emphatic “no” when asked whether the Mercedes deal places any restrictions on who McLaren can or can’t put in its cars.

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So will we see number 14 back in an orange McLaren in 2021? It seems unlikely for the simple reason that neither side particularly appears to want it.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, IndyCar, Indianapolis, 2019
Alonso is looking to win the Indianapolis 500
McLarens appear to have fully embraced life after Alonso. They can have few complaints about the job Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris have done for them this year, and confirmed early this year both will return for another season in 2020.

“I think we have not a single doubt in terms of these two guys being the future for us,” said team principal Andreas Seidl on Sunday evening in Sochi after the team put further distance between it and midfield rival (and current engine supplier) Renault.

“[It’s] great for us, great for the team to have this clarity also because it helps us again to focus on our core mission which is to develop, produce a quicker race car and get better and better as a team as well.”

As for Alonso, his priorities are clearly elsewhere. Having bagged his Le Mans 24 Hours victory (twice), he is still looking to unlock the ‘Triple Crown’ achievement by winning the Indianapolis 500. The IndyCar classic will again clash with the Monaco Grand Prix on the 2020 F1 calendar, and that’s unlikely to change in the future, making a full-time F1 commitment impossible. On top of that, he’s actively preparing for a likely tilt at the Dakar Rally with Toyota.

It’s not just Alonso’s many supporters who would like to see him back in a competitive F1 car. He was clearly still at the top of his game when he bowed out at the end of last season with an undefeated year-long record in qualifying against team mate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Given the right equipment, who wouldn’t want to see him renew his rivalry with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, or measuring himself the sport’s emerging new powers Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc? Many might want to see it happen, but this latest development doesn’t seem to have made it any more likely.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 71 comments on “Alonso could return to F1 in a McLaren-Mercedes – but don’t expect him to”

    1. Others might flame me, but I’d say F1 is a nicer place without Alonso. So let him seek out his triple crown and successes in other areas.

      It doesn’t hurt that his exit coincided with the arrival of a bunch of likeable youngsters who are also delivering the goods.

      1. agreed!
        Alonso is past history for F1.
        No more bridges to burn there.

      2. How can you say that. This guy has the respect of the best drivers on the grid. Also always performed at his maximum. He still has so many fans. Would be awesome seeing him race against those youngsters.
        And his whole image was destroyed by the media.
        – Mclaren: after everything Ron Dennis and Mclaren still wanted him back, which tells me alot. Also he got he blunt force of the affair, but with ron dennis being such a control freak, you’re telling me him and others didnt know about the spying.
        – Toxic at renault? Renault is toxic itself, still is.
        – Ferrari? Ferrari shouldnt be critical at all. The car was bad those seasons and Alonso still fought for world titles. He made them look so much better than they were, Alonso demands alot but give him a good car and he delivers also. Its not like Ferrari has gotten any better since he left and so many Ferrari people got kicked out also. But still people are blaming it on Alonso.
        – with honda i agree, he went to far. Honda was extremely bad and the whole mclaren/honda relationship wasnt working but he should have kept quiet more. Destroyed his chances or driving for honda.
        But hey, if you still want to blame him for that, thank him for the breakup which led to honda performing better at redbull and mclaren performing also better with renault,

        And if you still dont like him, be happy for the drama and contraversy he causes. Makes F1 less boring. ;)

      3. @phylyp I’d love to see him back for the very simple reason that he is a master racing driver and still has the ability to awe with the right machinery.

        1. @shimks – fair enough, I respect that viewpoint. :)

      4. @phylyp

        I’ve been to 25 F1 races with Alonso taking part. He was given a warm welcome in every single one, especially from Ferrari fans, and they still continued once he was back at McLaren. He is one of the all time respected and liked drivers. (at the actual race circuit)

        1. Nice to hear. Sometimes I get caught up in all the anti Alonso rhetoric on sites like this but it’s to be expected as most are run and followed. by Brits.
          I’d love to see him come back but don’t see it happening.

          1. I think the likely destination for Alonso is Ferrari.

    2. I highly doubt that.

    3. More chance of Hamilton driving a McLaren-Mercedes than Alonso, and i don’t mean this disrespectfully to Alonso, it’s just his time in F1 has passed.

      1. @emu55

        Who will Lewis drive for when Mercedes pull out by 2021? He’s been well beaten by Leclerc and Verstappen again this season. His time has nearly passed too. He’s only 4 years younger and already getting slower.

        1. @bigjoe His not well beaten. If you follow Hamilton career, you’ll know that he can do more in defending or overtake than what his shown lately. He is actually racing smart because he has more to lose than Leclerc or Verstappen, namely the WDC. He is racing for that, while Leclerc and Verstappen is still racing for race wins. If next year Leclerc and/or Verstappen is a true WDC contender, it’ll be fun to watch how they’ll fight on track.

          1. @sonicslv

            Verstappen has outdriven Lewis several times. If you follow the British headlines they don’t hype him up, which is why it’s never accepted on English speaking boards.
            Christian Horner claims Max is the best in the sport and I agree with him. Anyone who can’t deal with it then support another driver. Albon is interesting to follow.

            1. @bigjoe and Hamilton has outdriven Max several times also, albeit not necessarily in direct wheel to wheel. You need to remember Hamilton always focused on the championship instead of race wins like Max. His stake for DNF is much bigger and thus why he’s much more holding back on wheel to wheel fighting against non championship contender.

              And it’s funny if you implying british media is biased for Hamilton but using Horner judgement that obviously biased for Max. Feel free to think Max is the best, that’s your opinion, but I also free to think Hamilton is still better driver.

            2. @sonicslv

              When did Senna and Schumacher get beaten by drivers in lesser teams?

        2. huh? how do you know Mercedes will pull out by 2021? Hamilton is ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen by 100 points this season…

          1. @nickthegreek

            What?

            Where did I say season?
            Verstappen beat Lewis last year too in inferior cars.

        3. @bigjoe

          He’s been well beaten by Leclerc and Verstappen again this season

          And in this alternative reality, who will win the championship between Verstappen and Leclerc? Seriously,
          nowonder you have a reputation on these boards.

          Bet Lewis has done more for F1 and Great Britain than you ever will.

          1. @blazzz

            I’m reporting you for making this personal. These are the best message boards for F1. You continually spoil it with personal attacks.

            My reputation here is for claiming Lewis isn’t as good as his overly enthusiastic fans claim he is. They have go back 11 years to find evidence. Literally every week 2007 is mentioned.
            If you’re ego can’t handle me mentioning that Verstappen an Leclerc have been Lewis several times fair and square in very close cars, then you need to choose another driver. Don’t take it out on me.

            1. @bigjoe

              You continually spoil it with personal attacks.

              Hardly.

              My reputation here is for claiming Lewis isn’t as good as his overly enthusiastic fans claim he is.

              Amongst other things- like clearly stating he isn’t ‘British enough’ etc etc. Nontheless, you are entitled to your opinion- records say otherwise and ultimately that is what matters.

              If you’re ego can’t handle me mentioning that Verstappen an Leclerc have been Lewis several times fair and square in very close cars

              Swings and round abouts- Verstappen has won some battles, Leclerc others, Lewis many as well. You can be selective for all I care.

              If you’re ego can’t handle

              Take your own advice- you can’t handle that a then rookie outqualified and outclassified your great Alonso. Perhaps it’s not me who needs to choose another driver? Timing also has it, the great Alonso doesn’t even compete in F1 anymore.

              Feel free to report me all you wan’t- I highly doubt my so called “ego” will lose any sleep over it.

            2. @blazzz

              Simple. Senna and Schumacher didn’t get beaten by drivers in lesser teams.

              Why are you still talking about 2007? I’ve been to 25 races in the Alonso era and enjoyed every one, without a problem with any driver,

      2. Hamilton’s time may not be long either. IF, and that might be a big if, RBR and Red get equal with Merc, Hamilton’s WDC’ run may come to an abrupt halt much like Schuey’s did when Alonso came of age.
        LEC and VER are capable of doing the same to HAM. Sooner or later, the party comes to an end.

      3. @emu55

        As long as a driver is at the top of his game, he’s never past F1.

    4. The speculation engine keeps running all the time…

      1. Ah! The Speculation engine! This must be the new, next generation engine for F1. Self sustaining. Rarely needs any input but is capable of almost infinite output, ecologically compliant, but can become noisy!

    5. Cue the negative comments about how McLaren dont need him.

      I’m sorry but Alonso would annihilate meme king in the same car, however likeable and quick for a rookie he is.

      1. Yeah like he annihilated another rookie in 2007…

        1. Alonso got a lot better and Lando isn’t as good as Lewis but good attempt.

        2. Well he couldnt, as Ron Dennis said in 2007, “we were racing Alonso”
          Also, that season actually showed how good Lewis actually is. And it laid down the respect Alonso And Hamilton have for each other.
          The only other driver Lewis sees as his equal. Same for Alonso,

        3. @emu55

          It’s pretty sad having to go back 11 years to prove two points. Massa also beat Lewis in 2007 and 2008 (Felipe deserved the 2008 title)

          1. NeverElectric
            5th October 2019, 4:32

            Lol. If Massa “beat Lewis in 2008”, how come the 2008 world champion was Lewis?
            Hilarious.

            1. What’s hilarious is that a driver can’t have good days in the overly defensive Hamilton fan’s mind, there’s always an end game for them that has to finalize that ‘Lewis is the best’
              Massa beat Lewis fair and square during 2007 and 2008. Lewis was impressive, but why write off other drivers who performed well during that period? I know why…..

          2. Let’s assume massa deserved 2008, which I might agree, think in terms of deserving it was pretty even as well, then how can massa have beaten hamilton in 2007 when he got less points with a better car? Don’t think you put some thought into this.

            1. @esploratore

              2008
              Hamilton fans wanted Alonso’s victory and points taken off him for Singapore (which Alonso would have won anyway without trouble in qually, don’t forget there were 2 safety cars giving Lewis a second chance, Alonso walked it again) . But then those fans that want Alonso’s points docked, that gives Massa the title. So what’s it to be haters?

              2007
              Lewis was superb in qually with a string of second places to boast of, but with all 3 other top drivers were winning (as expected) trouble is that was Alonso’s worst season and Alonso’s race-craft and relentlessness improved as he went on to beat Lewis in slower cars
              Lewis has not impressed as much since over a season, certainly not at Mercedes where Nico got the better of him from time to time including qually.
              By his own admission Lewis’s most consistent season’s were 2017 and 2007.

              IIRc Ferrari and McLaren and the same number of 1-2 finishes.

              It was a great season for me. I can never work out why there’s so much hatred surrounding it.
              Well worth downloading and watching again.

            2. @esploratore

              2008
              Hamilton fans wanted Alonso’s victory and points taken off him for Singapore (which Alonso would have won anyway without trouble in qually, don’t forget there were 2 safety cars giving Lewis a second chance at him, Alonso walked it again) . But then those fans that want Alonso’s points docked, that gives Massa the title. So what’s it to be h@ters?

              2007
              Lewis was superb in qually with a string of second places to boast of that actually gave him the position over Alonso, but all 3 other top drivers were winning (as expected) trouble is that was Alonso’s worst season and Alonso’s race-craft and relentlessness improved as he went on to beat Lewis in slower cars
              Lewis has not impressed as much since over a season, certainly not at Mercedes where Nico got the better of him from time to time including qually.
              By his own admission Lewis’s most consistent season’s were 2017 and 2007.

              IIRc Ferrari and McLaren and the same number of 1-2 finishes in 2007?

              It was a great season for me. I can never work out why there’s so much h@tred surrounding it.
              Well worth downloading and watching again.

              yes I have given it thought

    6. Was Alonso the reason for the $100m fine though? I believe Max Mosely stated that McLaren were already being investigated before Hungary when the whole team imploded and Alonso threatened Ron Dennis. What Alonso did was absolutely not correct, but to say that was the reason McLaren-Mercedes lost $100m would be incorrect. That said, his actions would still leave a sour taste.

      1. Yeah people try to blame him, forgetting who actually did the spying, and which team used the data. Ron Dennis the control freak didnt know they say…..yeah right.

        1. True. Alonso’s blackmailing to Ron was sour taste for sure. But it was McLaren the ones to blame, the guilty side. And surprisingly, this article states that Mercedes is blaming Alonso for the consequences of the Spygate, or at least using that as a valid argument to avoid hiring Alonso in the future. If Mercedes took no part in the Spygate (they were only engine suppliers and used McLaren F1 team to promote Mercedes brand), shouldn’t they be angry with McLaren in first place instead of Alonso? If so, why did they continue their partnership until 2014? Why the Spygate is a valid point to avoid hiring Alonso, but it was not for both companies partnership continuation? I can only imagine that Mercedes was also fully involved in the Spy gate, although I haven’t found any reference to them in the case.

      2. @mashiat

        Alonso was a whistle blower not a spy. Spying by the way is common place in F1 which makes a mockery of how the case was named.
        After concessions and corporation tax loophole, McLaren only paid about £20,000. Peanuts!

      3. No it was someone’s vendetta against Ron. Someone else did much the same thing later and got no fine at all! Then there was Crashgate, no $100M fine there either. !

        No F1 is not a shining example of fair play and equality. But maybe Liberty Media will keep it long enough for it to look better to outsiders who do not know the history. New viewers is what they are after, They can start by putting it back live on proper telly.

    7. I think it more likely that Hamilton will be looking for a change of drive in 2021. I don’t see Mercedes continuing as a racing team in ’21 but as a PU supplier only. Lot’s of hints lately, Hamilton “I hope to drive ’21 cars”. McLaren, Merc. works team. Bottas and Hamilton contracts end this year and a good reason not to offer Ocon false hopes with just a one year contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton already has a pre agreement with Ferrari for ’21, remember his praise of the Tifosi at Monza. No positives re ’21 from Wolff.????

    8. Alonso could return to F1. Schumacher returned to Mercedes and look how well it went. He was delivering 6-12th place reliably.

      Alonso would probably do the same. What motivation is there for 40 year old someething old multi world champion to wake up every morning train hard every day multiple seasons and battle kids for 6-7th place being the best possible result?

      McLaren won’t be on Mercedes level ever again while Alonso is not to old for any competition.

      That is why Alonso is out of the picture. Top teams can get current young top drivers. Leclerc, Verstappen, and other “kids”. Second tier teams might not be able to get really top drivers and Alonso is not interested in second tier results.

      1. @jureo

        Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Michael Schumacher was one of the main catalyst in moving the bar in F1 to higher level. He set the standard for fitness, preparation, training, setup. The younger generation that came at the end of his career all benefited from that. Schumacher wasn’t any slower when he came back, everyone else just got better. Mercedes of 2010 to 2012 was not the same as Mercedes now, I think he did admirably well, considering that Rosberg was close Hamilton just the year after.

        1. It would be very romantic to believe Schumacher hasn’t lost some speed on his comeback after years out of competitive racing. Old age does hurt performance. When is old age? Soon after 30. He was 40+

          This all resulted in him making more mistakes, driving more inconsistent lap times. Rosberg did a great analysis on his channel, where Michael was slow and how his age showed. At best of times he was slighly bellow Rosberg level, who was still at a very high level but a tiny bit off Hamilton level.

          I use this as example of best possible driver to make a comeback. A driver who 10 years before returning to the sport was on greatest of all time level. Then there is Alonso, also blisteringly quick in his prime while at Ferrari. It would be illusive to believe he is faster now after being out of the sport and aged.

          At best he would be fast sometimes, but no way he would be a match for guys who are reaching their prime and will reach it by 2021.

          1. So without checking wiki, alonso is supposed to be like 11 years younger than msc, so if schumacher is 50 now he will be 51 soon, alonso probably 40 in 2020 at some point, that is starting to be A LOT above 35, so a gradual decrease of performance already happened for 5 years and then at 41 there’ll be a huge step down again, ofc this is indicative, not necessarily each year this happens, but on average also is not gonna be at peak any more in 2021, in fact he should be like schumacher on his comeback, 5-6 tenths slower than at his peak which is huge.

    9. I have no doubts Alonso would be comprehensively beating whichever of the two current McLaren drivers would have been his team-mate if he’d stayed around. At least part of that would be because they’d most likely continue their focus on him as a clear No.1, but he’s also a far better driver than either Sainz or Norris… he was Hamilton/Verstappen level when he left, and he’d be that level now if he’d been driving in F1.

      But if he returned in 2021, after two years out, I don’t think he’d be the same. I don’t necessarily think the example of Schumacher should be applied to any returning great, but I do believe that time away from not just the car and the racing, but the all-encompassing F1 lifestyle, would take something away from an older driver and there’s no guarantee they’d be able to get it back.

      So much as I enjoyed watching him in F1, and regard him as one of the best to have ever sat in an F1 car… I hope he stays away. There are enough disappointments in the life of an F1 fan without adding a potentially diminished Alonso 2.0 to the list.

      1. A very well considered comment.

        I think his hunger at the opportunity of a potentially front running car would push him to very quickly get up to <2018 level. Alonso is wired differently. Schumacher came back having conquered completely, it's very different to a man who if not for the way a couple of races panned out could easily be a 5 time WDC right now.

      2. I have no doubts Alonso would be comprehensively beating whichever of the two

        do not think so. They already fit in the team and Alonso’s number one treatment and acting would not work anymore,

        1. Alonsos politics, like Schumacher also did, end up him becoming number one even if they try to have equality.
          And having a number 1 driver works if the topteams are close. Ferrari realised it with Schumacher. Renault with Alonso. Redbull realised it when they had to fight alonso and choose Vettel over Webber.
          The only reason there wasnt any n1 driver problems at mercedes was because they were way ahead of everyone.
          Just look at these past races with Ferrari challenging Mercedes and you see Mercedes starting to favour Hamilton.
          Hamilton is clearly becoming the n1 driver even though bottas is his biggest challenger.
          And for Ferrari its clear they need to choose 1 driver if they want to fight for the title next year. You can go equal for a while but in the end its time to chose.

        2. lonso’s number one treatment and acting would not work anymore

          Please tell me how his near flawless racecraft is generated by “number one treatment and acting?” – Say what you want about his character but the man is ruthlessly aggressive, quick and able to adapt to the car better than almost anyone on the grid.

          1. Unlike Seb Vettel who after 5 years in a team and having as much development input as he wants is still given poor performance leniency by apologists running that “needs a stable rear” line endlessly. As if that’s a valid excuse.

          2. +1 RB13 you talk a lot of sense.

      3. Alonso is still very active unlike Schumacher was. He keeps searching for limits so i think he will be quick to adapt and get back to his old level.
        I actually think all the experience might help him be even better.

    10. Not a single word of what Toto was saying had the subject “Alonso”, not even a single letter

      He mentions two entities in the spygate affair and says things are in the past now, those two entities are Mercede and McLaren. The fact he says everything is sorted between the two does not reflet the same on Alonso

      Bringing him into this is just an attempt to take advantage of the craze that usually surrounds the name, to each their own I guess, but this has nothing to do with Fred

    11. Split on this one. I’d like to see Alonso back in Formula 1 in a competitive car, but Sainz and Norris have done a really good job this season. They also seem a good pairing. I can’t help thinking that bundling one of them out of the team to make way for Alonso would be disruptive. Ideally I’d like to see Alonso back at Ferrari with Vettel retiring (apologies to Vettel fans, it’s not personal, I just think he’s declined too far).

      1. I’d like to see Alonso back in Formula 1 in a competitive car,

        Leading a lot of races in a Mercedes is still possible for Alonso.
        Spare driver for Bernd Mayländer comes to mind

        1. Ouch, that’s wicked :-D

    12. Not exactly on topic (on the edge of topic?), but does it not seem as if some contract durations are written so that they specifically end in years when some other drivers are still under contract? To make it a little more difficult for some drivers to go to some teams?

    13. He’s too old and been out of F1 for too long, if he came back in 2021 it would be like Schumacher’s return to Mercedes.

      1. @davidjwest

        like Schumacher’s return to Mercedes.

        A nicer bloke and pole at Monaco. Then stabbed in the back.

    14. Please! Enough with the Fernando F1 speculation already. It’s become comical.

      1. @danmar

        Isn’t this stuff actually referred to by people in the sport as ‘silly season’ ?

        1. It’s hard to tell now that most pro sports seasons are silly.

    15. What kind of clickbait is this? You’ve answered the hook as part of the headline :-D
      I think McLaren should stick with Lando and Sainz, they have years of potential ahead.

    16. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE STOP COVERING THIS NON STORY!

      I dunno that I can handle another year of these alonso non stories!

    17. Given the amount of trouble Mercedes have been in, and could be, in the wider auto industry, I don’t think Alonso would want to associate with their bad name!

      Google:
      Emissions cheating
      Price fixing
      Cartel
      Resource manipulation and fixing

    18. Watching F1 from 2004, I think Alonso is the best driver to have ever raced in F1. He is a driver with complete package and no driver in this century is ever equipped well enough to challenge him with the same machinery. He is a legend by all standards. Just look at the number of comments. You can like him or hate him but can’t keep him away from F1.

    19. no thanks. cant stand another season of his bitchy diva complaining radio messages. we already have enough with Grosjean right now.

      1. For your own health, please don’t watch any F1 documentaries!

        The Netflix one revealed even more swearing and bad tempers!

        I just thought, oh so they are human.

    20. Such a bizarre notion that Alonso would not be the obvious choice for the team. We all know he would cream both Sainz and Norris. If anything, it’s this fact alone that could put a damper on it, as it would be very disheartening and disruptive for both driver and team if he should wipe the floor with them, especially Sainz who is not a rookie anymore. But just the sheer volume of points and development push he would give would be worth it no matter what else.

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