Fernando Alonso confirms Mercedes contact over 2017 drive but wants to win at McLaren
Spaniard reveals world champions called him after Nico Rosberg's shock retirement; Two-time champion reiterates commitment to McLaren but will consider his future in September
By Matt Morlidge at McLaren
Last Updated: 24/02/17 9:55pm
Fernando Alonso has revealed Mercedes contacted him about driving for them in 2017 after Nico Rosberg quit the world champions.
But the Spaniard has insisted he is "100 per cent committed" to lifting McLaren back up the grid and competing for his third Formula 1 world title.
However, Alonso has refused to commit to the team beyond this season and revealed he will make a decision about his future in September.
Talking in detail about his talks with Mercedes, which could have ended with him partnering Lewis Hamilton again after a 10-year gap, Alonso said: "Once Rosberg retired, Mercedes did a little check on everyone. It was nothing really strange or deep, it was just a round check they did to hear my situation
"There were a couple of days where there were conversations and phone calls arrived to me, but there was no point in discussing them. I'm happy. McLaren-Honda, along with Ferrari, are the two most prestigious teams."
Alonso was speaking at McLaren's launch of the MCL32, their orange and black-liveried challenger, and insists he comes into the campaign with extra motivation after a disappointing two years since returning to Woking.
"I really enjoyed the break and I really needed the break," Alonso, partnered by Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne this season, said. "I arrive now with completely new motivation and a new challenge in front of me.
"Obviously, I want to be world champion. That's what I train for, that's why I'm running and biking in minus 10 degrees for the last month. I'm 100 per cent committed to win."
The 35-year-old's optimism, however, has been offset slightly by executive director Zak Brown's claims that a race victory would be too much to ask for in 2017. Alonso, in the last year of his McLaren contract, has said he would consider leaving if the team were not competitive following the regulation changes.
A door could even open up at Mercedes with Rosberg's replacement, Valtteri Bottas, having only been offered a one-year deal.
Asked whether a poor start to the season would make his decision easier, Alonso replied: "It's a question I will probably answer after the summer break.
"Mercedes? For the future, we will see. August, September, there is no point talking before then as I will be fully focused on this championship and we will need to see which cars and teams are competitive with these new rules."
Can McLaren be winners again?
Eight-time world champions McLaren may be, but the line stressed at the MCL32 launch, by the team's management at least, was that this project will need time - especially after an off-season of change behind the scenes.
Honda followed up a woeful 2015, their first year since renewing their partnership with Honda, with a sixth-place finish in the constructors' standings last season, with Alonso the star performer.
"We need to be realistic knowing that the gap from last year is huge," Alonso told Sky Sports News HQ. "We were 1.5 seconds from the front runners in Abu Dhabi, so that's a huge job to do.
"But the chassis we started early enough. The management change, we have stability now so everything is good. We have McLaren colours and the DNA of the company inside the car.
"Honda completely redesigned the engine because we understood that with the previous engine it was not possible to catch the frontrunners. So all the ingredients are there to become very competitive - hopefully very soon."
Alonso did, however, concede that Mercedes were still the frontrunners for 2017, though he hoped the new regulations would "bring a fighting spirit" back to McLaren.
"Mercedes, unfortunately, have a very big advantage with the engines," he explained. "That carry over is a handicap for the rest of the teams so we need to do a much, much better job on the chassis side.
"Red Bull are still fighting against Mercedes, so we'll see. Hopefully we can fit into that privileged group. We know that we have to do a super good job on the chassis to compensate for our weakness."
The first F1 pre-season test starts on Monday February 27 and the Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days while Sky Sports News HQ will also deliver live updates from trackside.