Fernando Alonso vows to fulfill his three-year deal with McLaren
Button also expected to stay for 2016 after Suzuka talks
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 28/09/15 9:46am
Fernando Alonso has pledged to honour the full term of his three-year deal with McLaren-Honda.
On a Japanese GP weekend which begun in the erroneous expectation that Jenson Button, Alonso's team-mate, would announce his retirement from F1, it was confusion about Alonso's future which instead transpired to be the major off-track talking point.
After his manager, Flavio Briatore, warned that Alonso could quit the team unless they delivered a winning car, the Spaniard himself was equivocal when he faced the press on Saturday evening in the wake of yet another undistinguished qualifying outing. The flames of speculation were fuelled further still when Alonso launched a series of humiliating outbursts over McLaren's team radio during a race which also doubled as Honda's home event.
Not content with lambasting the team's woeful display as "embarrassing" and "very embarrassing," the two-time world champion then castigated the Honda power unit by comparing it to a "GP2 engine".
But with the team seemingly on the cusp of a crisis and in danger of losing both of their former world champions, Alonso has calmed the waters by vowing to stay.
"No one should have any doubt that I have 3 years with McLaren and my career in F1 will end with this team, hopefully winning everything," Alonso tweeted.
In an additional message to his 2.3m followers, Alonso also argued his radio messages to McLaren should not have been publicly broadcast. "When we are fighting in group is difficult, we all want to win, and sometimes transmit the team radios, but it should be private chats," he wrote.
Alonso's angry outbursts were branded "stupid" and "out of order" by Sky Sports F1 pundit Johnny Herbert while even Ron Dennis, the McLaren boss whose every utterance regarding Alonso has been forensically scrutinised following the spectacular disintegration of their relationship during the 34-year-old's previous stint with the team in 2007, was moved to condemn the messages.
"I think he vented his frustration. I don't think he needed to make the comments, it wasn't particularly constructive," Dennis acknowledged to Sky Sports F1.
"I do not condone it, but I am not going to criticise our drivers. I will sort it behind closed doors."
Dennis, though, was adamant that both Button and Alonso would continue to drive for the team in 2016.
"We have Fernando contracted for three years and Jenson contracted for two," said Dennis. "We have three young drivers at various stages of their careers, all doing incredibly well and we know where we are going and what we are doing.
"We did have an option to terminate Jenson's contract, but I told him earlier in the week that wasn't going to happen. And I think he was pleased, and maybe I should have told him a bit sooner."
Dennis: Button and Alonso staying
McLaren boss Ron Dennis says he's keep the same race line-up in 2016
Button's deal for 2016 is understood to guarantee the Englishman a substantial pay rise while Alonso is believed to be the highest-paid driver in the sport alongside world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. But while McLaren's reduced circumstances, with the team facing a severe loss of prize money at the end of the season, would seemingly argue against Button's retention, especially with two cheaper options in Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen waiting in the wings, Button's experience, popularity and marketing appeal make him an invaluable asset to the team.
An announcement officially confirming Button's retention could be made on Wednesday when the 'termination' option is due to expire while Dennis has revealed the team will unveil a new sponsor later this week.
Button winning poker game
Sky F1's Mark Hughes explains how Jenson Button is winning his contract poker game with Ron Dennis
Don't miss the F1 Midweek Report on Wednesday night at 8.30pm when Ted Kravitz and David Brabham join Natalie Pinkham to discuss the Japanese GP