Fernando Alonso really hates not being in a position to win grand prix races, let alone being unable to fight for the world championship he last won in 2006. But for all that, he’s enjoyed himself recently.
McLaren Honda are in such straits currently that they will do anything to keep him happy, hence his recent post-Sochi foray to Indianapolis where he stunned seasoned onlookers with the unruffled smoothness with which he took to lapping the famed Brickyard at more than 222 mph.
Then this afternoon he let it be known in the clearest terms that he’s up for grabs in 2018 to whomsoever might be interested in securing the services of a man still rated one of the top two racers in the business, if he doesn’t sense that McLaren and Honda have the technical wherewithal to challenge for wins after the summer break.
That may yet pivot around Mercedes supplying technological assistance, as they are believed to have done with both Renault and Ferrari in recent years, to create a competitive power unit. But nobody at McLaren or Honda dare confirm or deny that.
“I like this F1. My intention or first priority is to race here,” Alonso stressed ahead of his home race. “I am happy with the team, but we are not winning.
“If from here to September/October we are in a position where we see clearly a possibility to win in 2018, I will be more than happy to stay with the team. If it is not the case, then I will be more than happy to talk to anyone.”
Of course it’s really far too soon for what is known as the Silly Season to begin. There are still 15 races to be run.
But the fact that there has also even been speculation in the Italian media that world championship points leader Sebastian Vettel is going to decamp from Ferrari to Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton suggests that there isn’t enough going on elsewhere within the sport to generate serious interest.
Part of the problem is that if there is a serious team in this paddock that doesn’t have some sort of hefty aerodynamic upgrade here this weekend, then they are playing at the wrong table; yet at the time when the FIA and the new management at FOM have obliged the teams to place race numbers and driver names on their cars so that the paying public actually has a chance of deciphering them as the ground-based missiles pound down the Circuit de Catalunya’s front straight at 200 mph, neither body has yet succeeded in persuading them to disclose the nature of their changes.
There has been speculation that Vettel could quit Ferrari (Getty)
That’s for the forensic technical writers to glean over the course of the weekend, and for the TAG Heuer timing clocks to determine in the practice and qualifying sessions leading up to the race. Secrecy still rules.
Vettel looked relaxed and chirpy, as well he might since his red car has carried over into the first four races the speed it first demonstrated here in pre-season testing, but he’s too wily a bird to get drawn into…