Why Did McLaren Talk to Fernando Alonso About a Race Seat?
It was a shock because McLaren already has two capable drivers in the team and Alonso is still under contract with Ferrari.
But when questioned on the matter, McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said he would like to have the two-time world champion back in his team.
“Yes, any team would. He's the best driver. I don't know his contractual situation. I assume he's under contract.”
Alonso himself poured cold water on the idea whilst saying he was flattered by McLaren’s interest.
“I love Ferrari and I will stay at Ferrari until the end [of my contract]. It's nice to hear comments from all the team principals every year saying they respect my job and personality, especially McLaren.”
So if Whitmarsh knows Alonso still has a contract with Ferrari that he intends to see through, why are they attempting to lure him back?
1. He’s the Best Driver on the Grid
The first answer is, of course, an obvious one. Alonso is widely regarded as the most complete driver on the Formula One grid. The two-time world champion regularly outperforms the capabilities of his Ferrari.
Granted, Sebastian Vettel is on the verge of securing a fourth drivers’ title on the bounce, but many think Alonso would be more than a match for him in equal machinery.
2. Alonso Is Unhappy at Ferrari
Despite Alonso’s insistence that all is rosy in the red garden of Ferrari, it is clear that relationships have become strained this year.
Per Ferrari's official website, the Spaniard was given a very public dressing-down by Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo in July after making critical remarks about the car. Now that Kimi Raikkonen has been signed for 2014, Alonso's place as outright team leader is under threat.
You can bet that McLaren have latched onto the feeling that Alonso may want out because of this as he likes to be the undisputed No. 1.
3. Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton Are No Longer a Factor
It's an open secret that Alonso spectacularly fell out with the McLaren management when he was last at the team in 2007 and in particular with then-team boss Ron Dennis who refused to allow Alonso preferential treatment over favourite son Lewis Hamilton.
Whilst Dennis is still chairman of the McLaren Group, he no longer has an active role in the F1 team and cannot block a move for Alonso.
4. Perez Is No World Beater
McLaren knows that if they get Alonso to partner Jenson Button at the team, they would have arguably the strongest driver lineup on the grid.
Sergio Perez joined the team this season in place of the outgoing Hamilton, but it appears there was much more to the deal than the Mexican being a talented racing driver.
Perez comes with substantial backing from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s Telmex group, but Alonso would also come with funding from Santander, who would cover his significant wage demands.
5. Honda Power Can Return McLaren to the Top
Alonso’s primary motivation to re-join McLaren is because he wants to be world champion again and doesn't see Ferrari as capable of delivering him a prestigious third drivers’ title.
The change to 1.6-litre turbo engines for 2014 is believed to favour Mercedes and Renault power even at this early stage with Ferrari thought to be slightly behind in their development.
And with McLaren switching to the Honda power that saw them dominate the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Alonso could picture himself as a multiple world champion.