McLaren to have Magnussen, Alonso in 2015 (8th Update) UPDATE #8
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's under-fire team principal, flew to Madrid on Monday in his escalating attempt to sign Fernando Alonso.
|Alonso is a wanted man|
So seriously is Whitmarsh taking his pursuit of the Ferrari driver that he even missed the prestigious Autosport Awards dinner in London on Sunday night to make the flight to Spain the following morning.
After delegating his No 2 Jonathan Neale to receive an award marking McLaren's 50 years in Formula One, Whitmarsh attended the opening of the 'Alonso Collection', an exhibition dedicated to the double world champion.
A spokesman for McLaren said Whitmarsh was there among the 'team principals of the four teams for which Fernando has driven in Formula One.'
But it is understood that Whitmarsh - who, in fact, was not Alonso's team principal during his one, strife-torn year at McLaren - is keen to develop a channel of communication to Alonso with an eye on bringing in the Spaniard for the 2015 season.
In the last few weeks Whitmarsh has spoken of his admiration for Alonso saying: 'Yes, I would welcome Fernando here. He is a very talented driver.'
Signing Alonso, who fell out with Ron Dennis when he was running McLaren F1, would buttress Whitmarsh's position after another disappointing season. Mail Online10/21/13 F1 team McLaren "is reportedly planning a massive attack on Red Bull and driver Sebastian Vettel," according to Frank Schneider of BILD. At "the core of the plan is current Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso." The Spaniard has been chasing a third world championship title for four years with the Italian team. Despite a contract until '16, Alonso "is losing trust in the historic team." McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh "has been wooing him for weeks."
In addition, Honda, which will return to F1 as McLaren's engine supplier in '15, is sweetening a possible deal for Alonso by reportedly paying half of the €25M ($34M) salary. The Japanese company "will supply McLaren with its engines free-of-charge." Therefore, the British team will be saving €20M ($27M) per year -- or €100M ($137M) during a five-year deal. It is money that team "is already investing." McLaren "has already hired two engineers from Red Bull's aerodynamics department." Mercedes Non-Exec Dir Niki Lauda said, "There's a new power emerging." BILD
10/21/13 (GMM) A Danish newspaper has looked into the future and spotted Kevin Magnussen, the brand new Formula Renault 3.5 champion, at McLaren in 2015.
The report in the tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet also said the now 21-year-old Dane's Honda-powered teammate in two years time will be none other than Fernando Alonso.
Magnussen, the son of former F1 driver Jan, wrapped up the Formula Renault 3.5 championship in Spain at the weekend.
With McLaren's backing, he is now linked with a move to F1 next year with Marussia.
"I have focused entirely on achieving this goal (the 2013 title), because you cannot even dream of going to formula one if you do not deserve it," he said in Barcelona.
Indeed, the Ekstra Bladet report might be slightly more than a speculative glance into the crystal ball.
Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper reports that there is more to the Alonso-to-McLaren story than mere rumors.
The newspaper said Honda has agreed with McLaren to split the Spaniard's huge annual retainer.
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, however, insists he is not worried.
"I do not fear losing Fernando," he told the German magazine Sport Bild.
"He has a contract and he recently made clear that he is staying. He wants to win with us, and we want to win with him," Domenicali added.10/15/13 As F1 fans know, Felipe Massa has frequently outqualified Alonso this season and, when that has happened, Ferrari has managed to find a way to have Alonso leapfrog past Massa during pit stops. That didn’t happen on Sunday and Alonso had to fight his way past Massa on the track. Just another indication that Alonso’s days at Ferrari are numbered.
(GMM) Martin Whitmarsh is keeping "wild rumors" in the headlines that Fernando Alonso could return to McLaren in 2014.
Ferrari's Spaniard denied the speculation yet again when it emerged earlier in Korea, but McLaren boss Whitmarsh says the team "could afford" to sign F1's highest-paid driver.
The suggestions about McLaren's ability to pay Alonso follows reports the great British team, locked in a performance slump this season, has recorded a financial loss.
"We could afford to bring Alonso here next year," Whitmarsh is quoted by the Guardian.
"I shouldn't be stoking wild rumors of his return in 2014 but would we welcome him back, be delighted to have him back in the team? Of course we would."
The rumors are being further stoked by Alonso's continuing obvious frustration at Ferrari, where he qualified just sixth on Saturday.
Speed Week quotes him as saying he is getting used to being outpaced by Red Bull.
"It has been the same for the past four years," said Alonso, who joined Ferrari in 2010, "and now we are the fourth fastest team in the field.
"But we have been able to fight for the title three years, so we can be proud," he added.
F1 legend Alain Prost said he can understand Alonso's frustration.
"Fernando deserves to be champion, but mistakes have been made and that may have caused frustration," the Frenchman told Spain's El Pais.
"It is true that he has also not had much luck, but the combination of Red Bull and Vettel is very difficult to beat.
"Where I disagree with him is you can't really blame Ferrari; if he was always in the middle of the field I could understand, but the car has always been quite competitive.
"Red Bull is just better, period," added Prost.09/21/13 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Fernando Alonso has shot down speculation he could be about to return to McLaren.
The rumor went into overdrive earlier in Singapore, after McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh refused to rule out tweaking the current lineup of Jenson Button alongside Sergio Perez.
"McLaren? I love Ferrari, until the end," Spaniard Alonso was quoted late on Friday by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I have another three years on my contract and I hope for even more," he added.
Alonso, who had also flirted with a switch to Red Bull before the world champion team announced its 2014 lineup, drove for McLaren in 2007 but the relationship ended acrimoniously.
At the very least, the 32-year-old said he has "no problems" with McLaren any more.
"It was just the philosophy of the team, and one man in the team no longer there," said Alonso, undoubtedly referring to former team boss Ron Dennis.
"It's good to have this compliment (from Whitmarsh), but there is no intention," he insisted.09/20/13 The intense heat and humidity of Singapore are excellent for certain kinds of growth and they have produced a luxuriant piece of paddock gossip here: Fernando Alonso will quit Ferrari and join McLaren.
A seed of a rumor at lunchtime, it grew with such rapidity that it had touched almost every motorhome before sunset. A combination of Alonso's grumpiness at Ferrari after the signing of Kimi Raikkonen to partner him next season, and McLaren's dilatoriness in signing up Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for 2014, have spawned a rumor that may yet be self-fulfilling: Formula One is driven by gossip as much as its rich fuel mix.
McLaren's senior driver Button not only failed to kill the speculation but gave it greater momentum. When asked "How would you feel driving with Fernando next season?" Button replied: "I think it would be quite exciting. There are many team-mates in Formula One who I would be excited about working with.
"Even though I am 33 years old and one of the oldest drivers on the grid, I still feel as though there is a lot to learn. There are certain drivers you can learn more from than others and I think that it can benefit any team who has two experienced drivers."
Asked whether he was friends with Alonso, he said: "The only people I really hang out with are Paul Di Resta and Mark Webber, but I have a lot of respect for Fernando, he has been around as long as I have. We have had a lot of racing experiences in different teams. We also worked together in 2002 when he was our test driver at Renault.
"We have had some interesting times and I have a lot of respect for the guy. It's been a difficult year for him."09/20/13 (GMM) Martin Whitmarsh on Friday denied McLaren has made an actual approach to Fernando Alonso or his management about driving for the team in 2014.
"No," he told the British broadcaster Sky after Friday practice in Singapore.
"No," said the Woking based team's boss, when asked the clarified question again.
But that doesn't mean there is no truth to the rampant paddock rumors about McLaren and 2015 engine supplier Honda wanting to field Jenson Button alongside fellow former world champion and current Ferrari driver Alonso.
Earlier, when asked if he would sign Alonso, Whitmarsh told the Daily Mail: "Yes, if I could."
Whitmarsh is being guarded in his comments because the 32-year-old Alonso is tightly under contract to Ferrari for the next few years.
"I expect our driver lineup for next year to stay the same but we are open to anything and in the long term he would be a great asset," he added on Friday.
"Fernando is in charge of his own destiny, but we'll see."
Alonso, earlier linked with Red Bull until the world champions signed Daniel Ricciardo, is - despite his public comments - clearly unhappy that Ferrari has signed a driver of the caliber of Kimi Raikkonen for 2014.
Whitmarsh, insisting Alonso's acrimonious split with McLaren at the end of 2007 is now "a long time ago", hinted at the Spaniard's discontent at Ferrari.
"It's wrong for me to comment on what's going on in Ferrari but people were surprised with the recruitment of Kimi", he said.
"Whether it is a sustainable lineup I don't know," Whitmarsh added.09/20/13 (GMM) The big rumor that shone under Singapore's lights on Thursday was all about Fernando Alonso -- and McLaren.
It was being whispered up and down the paddock that the real reason the British team is delaying the announcement about its drivers for next year is because negotiations with the disgruntled Ferrari 'number 1' Alonso are taking place.
Asked by the Daily Mail if he would hire the Spaniard, whose first McLaren stint in 2007 ended acrimoniously, team boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted: "Yes, if I could."
Jenson Button said on Thursday that his 2014 deal with McLaren is already "done". But it is believed the announcement is being held up so as not to focus speculation on the seat currently occupied by Sergio Perez.
Button, however, denied the Alonso subject is rampant even among those wearing McLaren team gear in Singapore.
"There hasn't been a word, that's the honest truth," he told the Independent newspaper.
"But I think it (being paired with Alonso) would be quite exciting."
In the last couple of days, it has become clear McLaren is thinking not only about its drivers for 2014, but also the start of the Honda era in 2015.
"It's a different situation with partners," Button admitted. "It may be to do with the funding, but I don't have a worry in the world about my future with this team."
That may be true, but also true is that Honda might see an Alonso-Button pairing as even better -- and worth paying handsomely for.
The move might also entice Ferrari sponsor Santander back to McLaren to help pay Alonso's huge retainer.
"We want a winning driver from day one," the Spanish newspaper Marca quotes a Honda insider as saying.