Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and More
Despite retiring from his first race with the team in Malaysia, Fernando Alonso is happy at McLaren.
So much so, in fact, that the 2005 and '06 world champion is intending to see out his career at the Woking-based team, with Alonso, now 33, discussing what life after Formula One may involve ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
While Alonso was forced to withdraw from the Sepang race, his successor at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, was busy winning it.
The German's surprise victory in Malaysia has the potential to blow the title race wide open, but Nico Rosberg believes Vettel's return to form will not force Mercedes to change their stance on team orders.
Vettel's former teams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, were lapped by the race-winning Ferrari at Sepang, but engine supplier Renault are planning to make improvements that could see both outfits fight higher up the order at the Shanghai International Circuit.
One team who can only dream of moving up the order are Force India, whose slow start to the season is set to continue until June's Austrian Grand Prix, where their heavily modified car is due to be introduced after yet another delay.
Closing this week's roundup is Sir Stirling Moss, who has revealed which driver he is supporting to win the 2015 drivers' championship.
Fernando Alonso Wants to Retire at McLaren-Honda
With his 34th birthday less than four months away, Fernando Alonso has claimed McLaren-Honda will be his last team in Formula One.
The two-time world champion, currently in his 15th season in the sport, has returned to McLaren from Ferrari for 2015 and does not envisage another switch before his time in F1 comes to a close.
As a youngster, the Spaniard drove a kart in the red-and-white colours of the iconic McLaren-Honda team, who with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at the wheel were dominant in the 1980s and '90s. Alonso—who has ruled out a team management role—believes finishing his career at the wheel of a Honda-powered McLaren would be a fitting way to go out.
As per Autosport's Ben Anderson, Alonso said of a potential management position:
I don't think so. After 15 or 16 or 17 years of Formula 1—whatever it will be—it's enough.
It's probably the same example of the Ferrari time—I will close the loop, that part of my life.
I started with McLaren-Honda when I was three years old—a replica of my father; I will finish with McLaren-Honda, but the real one in Formula 1, and that will be one third of my life.
[It will end] with great experiences, great memories, great friendships, but the normal life will start that day when I retire, and I do not see myself as a manager here or following the sport. That will be enough.
The 32-time race winner also implied that he takes more pleasure from helping McLaren rebuild than fighting for grands prix victories and world titles, telling the same source: "Now sometimes I feel more happy and more proud of my job and my team doing the things we are doing now than winning a trophy."
Alonso's pledge of loyalty to McLaren should be taken with a pinch of salt since, upon his signing by Ferrari in 2009, the Spaniard was quoted by the Guardian as claiming the Prancing Horse "will be my last team."
And last June, he was quoted by BBC Sport's Andrew Benson as saying he would not rest until he got the "satisfaction" of winning a third title, proving on-track success remains high on his list of priorities.
Nico Rosberg Certain of Mercedes Equality Despite Ferrari Threat
Nico Rosberg has insisted he will still be allowed to fight evenly with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, despite Sebastian Vettel's surprise Malaysian Grand Prix win.
Throughout their title-winning campaign in 2014, Mercedes decided against imposing team orders on their drivers, permitting Rosberg and Hamilton to race head-to-head for the drivers' world championship.
Although this policy proved troublesome at times—the drivers' Belgian GP collision cost the team victory at Spa—the Silver Arrows' comfortable performance advantage over the rest of the field gave Mercedes the luxury of letting Hamilton and Rosberg battle equally, a move that generated interest in a campaign that might otherwise have been a procession.
However, with Ferrari closing the gap to Mercedes over the winter—highlighted by Vettel's victory in the previous race at Sepang—there is a possibility the Silver Arrows could be forced into offering preferential treatment to one of their drivers in the hope of maintaining their status as world champions.
Rosberg, though, is confident Mercedes will refrain from introducing team orders, claiming that his battle with Hamilton is beneficial for the Brackley-based outfit.
The German told Sky Sports' Pete Gill:
That definitely won't be the case. It will still be the same. We are going to have an intense battle and the rivalry we continue. Of course, we will have to keep more of an eye on the opposition, particularly Ferrari, but it isn't going to change much—anyways, our rivalry has always been constructive. There have been difficult moments but all in all it has been pushing each other to a higher level and helping the team forward.
Renault Hope Red Bull, Toro Rosso Will Race Williams in China
With further improvements to their power unit set to be introduced this weekend, Renault hope Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso can fight with Williams at the Chinese Grand Prix.
After a disastrous start to the season in Australia, where the cars of both Renault-powered teams lacked reliability and performance, Toro Rosso and Red Bull got back on track in Malaysia as Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo all scored points.
In prioritising reliability over pace at Sepang, however, the Renault outfits were nowhere to be seen in terms of outright speed as Sainz, Kvyat and Ricciardo finished a lap down on the race-winning Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
But having taken confidence from finishing the race in Malaysia, which with its intense heat is regarded as the greatest test of reliability, the French manufacturer are intending to be more aggressive and operate their engine closer to full power at the Shanghai International Circuit, which features the longest straight on the calendar.
Remi Taffin, Renault's director of operations, was quoted by Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde as stating:
In Malaysia we got close to what we would consider the normal level of driveability we had at the end of 2014. For China we will have some small steps forward.
Performance was an improvement in Malaysia, although we did keep some in reserve to safeguard reliability.
Now we are getting more confident in this area we can afford to be more aggressive and we should see better results on the straights, with a higher top speed.
We finished in seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th in Malaysia and with the improvements put in place we hope to be further up.
With the improvements to driveability and overall performance, we hope we can fight the Williams' cars and grab some more points in China.
Racing with the likes of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in China would represent a significant step forward for Renault, with Williams currently sitting third in the constructors' championship.
Force India's B-Spec Car Delayed Until June
Force India's season has taken another setback with the news that their B-spec car will not take to the track until June.
The Silverstone-based team were late in introducing their new car for the 2015 season, sitting out the first pre-season test and opting to run their 2014 machine at the second test, which left Force India with just three days to prepare for the new campaign.
Despite their lack of running over the winter, Force India fared well in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez scored points. However, a more realistic indication of their performance level came in Malaysia, where both drivers failed to make Q3 for the second consecutive weekend as the team finished down the order.
An updated car, which is being developed at Toyota's wind tunnel in Cologne, Germany, was initially expected to be introduced in time for the Monaco Grand Prix in late May, but the team say the B-spec VJM08 will now appear at the following month's Austrian GP, which is followed by a two-day test at the Red Bull Ring.
According to Autosport's Lawrence Barretto, deputy team principal Bob Fernley said of the car:
The development is going well, but we won't see that until probably Austria.
It's a major B-spec car as we're looking to introduce a significant upgrade.
We felt we might as well try and hold with what we can and then hopefully we can bolt on an improvement.
I'm not saying it will take us ahead but hopefully it will put us back into the pack which is where we need to be.
Per the same source, Fernley claimed that "getting the wind tunnels operating" is the reason behind the delay, adding: "People don't realise what a big programme it is to move it to Cologne."
Stirling Moss Expects Lewis Hamilton to Win Title, Praises Sebastian Vettel
A former Mercedes-Benz driver himself, Sir Stirling Moss is backing Lewis Hamilton to become a three-time world champion in 2015.
Hamilton, who won 11 races en route to his second title triumph in 2014, currently leads the drivers' standings having followed up a pole-to-flag victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix with a second-place finish in Malaysia.
A three-time victor at the Shanghai International Circuit, Hamilton is expected to return to winning ways in this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
And Moss, who 60 years ago drove the legendary Mercedes W196 to second in the championship, admits he would be shocked if Hamilton doesn't go on to claim his third title this season.
According to Sky Sports' William Esler: "I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t really. He is a fantastically quick driver and he has the right engine in a Mercedes and that combination has to be winning I think."
The 85-year-old also paid tribute to Sebastian Vettel, whose credibility as a four-time world champion was called into question during a winless 2014 campaign, for breaking Ferrari's victory drought in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Moss told the same source: "I think it was the best thing that could happen. We know Vettel is a fantastic driver, but for Ferrari to come back as well as it did is really great news. I reckon Vettel is fantastic as well. He (Hamilton) and Vettel I would put in the same breath."