Is the Mercedes Formula One team a place Fernando Alonso would rather be? His current team McLaren certainly hopes not. Regardless, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff spat out Alonso’s name to Sky Sports as a possible replacement for surprise retiree Nico Rosberg.
Wolff told Sky Sports that he was interested in signing the two-time F1 world champion:
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.
Alonso’s three-year contract with McLaren doesn’t end until after 2017, which means Mercedes would have to buy him out of it.
New McLaren boss Zak Brown essentially went back off, he’s ours to Sky Sports:
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.
The other usual suspects—Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen—are also under contract next year. Because all of the big-name candidates are spoken for, Mercedes test driver Pascal Wehrlein has been named as one option Mercedes might hire, despite his relative youth and limited experience in F1. Wehrlein became the youngest-ever Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters champion in 2015 and drove for Manor Racing in F1 last year.
Of course, hiring Alonso would mean they’d be replacing one infamous rivalry with another. Alonso and Hamilton spent one rocky year as teammates at McLaren in 2007, after which Alonso asked to be released from his contract. Many believed McLaren showed favoritism towards Hamilton that season, although Alonso denied these allegations when he left the team.
Regardless, Wolff isn’t interested in hiring a number two driver, telling Sky Sports:
We will maintain the system we have. Both drivers will have equal status and equal opportunity to the best of our abilities. We owe it to the fans. You can’t have a pecking order.
Maybe Alonso would be happier next to Hamilton this time around after all!