Alonso in talks with Renault for 2018 (5th Update)

While Mercedes won't take Alonso, Renault would be happy to
While Mercedes won't take Alonso, Renault would be happy to

UPDATE (GMM) Fernando Alonso is clearly on the move.

Throughout the Baku paddock and beyond, the McLaren-Honda driver's management has been having talks with rival F1 teams.

Flavio Briatore, who oversees the 35-year-old's career, met for dinner with Mercedes chiefs Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.

Asked if the topic of Alonso came up over dinner, Wolff confirmed: "When you eat with Flavio, the conversation inevitably comes to Fernando Alonso!

"But we are very satisfied with our two drivers and see no reason to change. So there was no talk about a contract for Alonso."

Italian Briatore was also asked about the Mercedes meeting, and told the Spanish broadcaster Movistar: "Nothing, there is nothing.

"You always ask me about Fernando's future but now is not the time. The future at the moment is McLaren.

"What he has shown is that he is driving at the highest level, that's for sure," Briatore added.

On that claim, Alonso fully agrees.

"These new cars are tailor made for me," he said at Baku. "I think the gap to my teammate says it all.

"Stoffel Vandoorne is a great benchmark — hasn't he won every category he ever took part in?" Alonso added.

As for the Mercedes rumors, the two-time champion answered: "I think that's quite a fantasy.

"In the summer I will look at all the options and try to make the best decision to put me in a position to win," Alonso told Italy's Sky.

One of those options could be a return to the works Renault team.

In the Renault hospitality area, Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad was seen in conversation with team chiefs Cyril Abiteboul and Alain Prost.

So while it has been another bad weekend for Alonso on the track, one positive story might be the behind-the-scenes moves regarding his future.

"It has been very positive for me," the Spaniard said.

06/08/17 At today's Canadian Grand Prix press conference, Alonso said he'll leave McLaren at the end of this season unless it can start winning races by September, and he'll quit F1 altogether if it moves to a 25-race calendar. Currently, F1 runs 20 Grands Prix in a season with a winter break between December and March.

Alonso has given Honda a very short timeframe to fix its numerous engine issues. Currently, McLaren is dead last in the Constructor's Championship and at least one of its cars has had a DNF or a DNS in each race this season.

Honda also promised McLaren an engine upgrade for this weekend's Canadian GP, but now, that's been delayed indefinitely.

Given these circumstances, a miracle turnaround by McLaren and Honda seems unlikely at best, so don't be surprised to see Alonso head elsewhere.

Or he could perhaps stay with McLaren, but as a full-time IndyCar driver. McLaren has expressed interest in a full IndyCar works program, and Alonso certainly had a good time, and a strong showing at the Indy 500. Perhaps an IndyCar drive is on his mind?

Alonso downcast the Honda is so slow
Alonso downcast the Honda is so slow

04/29/17 (GMM) Fernando Alonso says he is not willing to wait much longer for Honda to improve.

McLaren headed into the Sochi weekend hopeful of better reliability, but a failure for Stoffel Vandoorne means Alonso's teammate has now already run through his engine allocation for 2017.

Coupled with poor performance, Alonso – whose contract runs out at the end of the season – called the situation "incredible".

"Maybe I'm towards the end of my F1 career," Spain's El Mundo Deportivo quotes him as saying.

"I'm 35 years old so I'm sure I have less time to race than I have already raced. How much am I willing to wait? Well, not much, not much."

Alonso has made a concerted point in 2017 of separating his talent, preparation and form from McLaren-Honda's conspicuous lack of performance.

And he has already been linked with a return to Renault for 2018.

"Every year you try to do your best to fight for titles, victories and podiums," said Alonso. "So we will see what possibilities there are next year, for the improvement of McLaren and their prospects for 2018.

"I finish my contract this year and I have the freedom that I did not have previously to be able to change team or not," he added.

"I am very open to any possibility, but the most important thing at this moment in my career is to be happy and that means winning. I will try to do it as soon as possible."

Cyril Abiteboul
Cyril Abiteboul

04/26/17 (GMM) Cyril Abiteboul has played down reports linking Fernando Alonso with a return to Renault.

Germany's Auto Bild claims that in Bahrain recently, talks took place between the French works team and the Spanish driver's management about a deal for 2018.

But Renault boss Abiteboul was quoted as saying: "I do not think we will fight for the championship next year.

"So it makes no sense to have a driver who is so frustrated about that situation."

Abiteboul's involvement at Renault dates back to Alonso's first stint at the marque, when he won back-to-back titles a decade ago in the Flavio Briatore era.

But Abiteboul said: "I don't live in the past. Circumstances change and now we need a driver that is right for the future."

04/24/17 Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul has said he will not let emotion and sentiment influence the team's driver line-up in the future.

Alonso has been tipped to return to the team where he won two World Championship titles once his McLaren-Honda contract expires at the end of the season.

But Abiteboul has suggested that Renault and Alonso would not be a good fit at this stage as the Enstone team continue to try and break into the elite group over the coming years.

"I am not here to pull off a one-off coup with someone, I am not living in the past," Abiteboul when asked about whether Renault are in a position to attract someone of Alonso's caliber.

"I started working in F1 when Flavio [Briatore] and Fernando were in this group together at Enstone, so I am emotionally touched by this period.

"But equally circumstances have changed, we need also to have a final line-up that will be the right one for the future.

"I don't think next year we will be in a position to fight for the championship. So we need a driver who can support us in this ultimate fight for the championship, but be prepared to wait for the time to come for this to happen."

Abiteboul also said, though, that attracting big-name drivers would become part of the plan further down the line.

"There is not a driver who will move you from Group 2 to Group 1, that is for sure," Abiteboul added.

"But when you are in Group 1, wait for a couple of races, maybe wait for a year, and stability of regulations, and then every single detail will count.

"I think we are moving towards a driver formula rather than a team/car formula, after some point of stability. If you look into it, if you look at our development, hopefully we will be in a position to be part of the top team [group] in two years' time.

Alonso in the Renault in 2005
Alonso in the Renault in 2005

04/16/17 (GMM) Fernando Alonso has reportedly commenced talks with Renault about a potential return to the French works team for 2018.

Now towards the end of his three-year McLaren-Honda deal, the British team and the Spaniard say they have agreed that contract talks about next year will be on hold until the summer.

"After the summer I will think and I will make a decision about what I will do next year," Alonso said in Bahrain.

But some say the 35-year-old is definitely no longer prepared to be a midfield runner, which could indicate why he has elected to skip Monaco this year in order to race at Indianapolis.

"Definitely. I want to win, I'm here to win," he said. "No more fifth or sixth.

"I think I'm really at the best of my career right now in terms of driving, so for next year there is only one target — fighting for the world championship."

But his options for 2018 appear limited, with bridges burned at Ferrari and Mercedes and Red Bull having no vacancy.

Renault, however, could be an obvious choice.

Alonso won his only two titles for the French carmaker over a decade ago, and the newly-developing works outfit might now be seen as 'best of the rest' behind the top three teams.

Germany's Bild newspaper reports: "The French have a serious interest in the Spaniard and the first talks have already taken place.

"Renault wants to bring its veteran back and make him Nico Hulkenberg's teammate in 2018."

The Auto Bild publication has more details, saying talks took place in Bahrain on Saturday morning, involving Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad and Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul in the Renault hospitality area.

Renault did not comment.

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