Depsite finishing sixth at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso has not been able to challenge for a world title since winning the championship in 2006.
Now with his McLaren contract due to expire at the end of the year, do you think he should retire from F1?
Let us know what you think as two of our writers debate on the topic.
CHRIS BAILEY, SAYS YES
Fernando Alonso turned 36 over the weekend but it is a sign of the times that a sixth-place finish was considered a worthy birthday present for a legend of the sport.
It is the highest position the Spaniard has achieved with a moribund McLaren car aside from a handful of fifths. After three sorry years, a lesser competitor would have called it quits by now and no one would question his fight if he does just that when his contract expires this winter.
A return to the Scuderia was brutally slammed shut earlier this month by Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne. “Maybe he might have some interest for us, but not for him.” Ouch.
Valtteri Bottas only has a one-year deal at Mercedes but he has proven a perfectly capable driver and pairing Alonso with Lewis Hamilton again, though the pair have matured across a decade, would risk upsetting a very stable applecart.
Top teams could be wary just for the fact he rubbed people the wrong way after his McLaren spat with Hamilton in 2007, and in walking away from Ferrari at the end of 2014.
Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda implied he has not been impressed by some of the Spaniard’s actions, too. “I do not think Ferrari wants to have him again,” he said. “He left with a contract, which is the same as what happened with him and McLaren Mercedes.”
Therefore staying with McLaren is his only realistic choice in F1, and that would mean betting his future on a new engine making a world of difference.
As disastrous as Honda have been, that McLaren could make a quantum leap in 2018 is wishful thinking. Alonso was down 58 seconds on fifth-place Max Verstappen Sunday and he may as well have been a world away from the podium.
And of course McLaren are willing for him to participate in races like the Indy500 – they have to make a whole heap of concessions because their car is terrible.
But he should not have to keep hanging on. His best bet is to take a year out for other pursuits, and let McLaren prove themselves. If they don’t he’ll quickly find there is more to racing than F1.
MATT MAJENDIE, SAYS NO
The general consensus within the Formula One paddock is that Fernando Alonso is the most complete driver on the grid. But it is currently a talent being wasted.
He was last on an F1 podium in 2014, his last victory dates back to 2013 while you have to go back 11 years for the last time he was crowned world champion.
Conversations have swirled around about his future to the extent that this weekend in Budapest he said he was bored of talking about it, and would not declare his hand until September.
The 36-year-old has warned the call he makes will be a risk, but the biggest risk would be for him to walk away altogether. F1 needs Alonso and Alonso needs F1.
From the moment he produced a scintillating first test run for Minardi in 2001, it was clear that the sport had unearthed a gem – and is now all the richer for him.
His drive to finish in sixth place at Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix highlighted the point perfectly. Ok, he was more than a minute away from race leader Sebastian Vettel, but it was a reminder of what he’s capable of with a quick car at his disposal.
The Hungaroring is a circuit that does not require the same power as many on the calendar so it showed that McLaren have actually created a good, competitive car that crucially lacks a decent Honda engine.
It is perhaps telling that the team’s racing director Eric Boullier has set a September deadline for the team’s engine decision for 2018, the same deadline Alonso has put on his future.
Alonso holds enormous sway at McLaren, and the team has made it clear it will do absolutely everything in its power to keep him. And with no realistic options at other teams, McLaren is where his future lies.
They have made it clear they are happy to let their star man pursue his other desires, namely to win motorsport’s other jewels in the crown, the Indy500 and Le Mans.
He was back smiling in a deckchair after his exploits in Budapest, a nod to one of his darker days at McLaren when his car failed him in qualifying at Interlagos. He’s happy enough, and has unfinished business in F1.