Fernando Alonso to Drive for McLaren in 2018…And Maybe Elsewhere Too
Despite rumors of the Spaniard looking to jump ship, McLaren announced that he will stay with the team for at least one more year.
Before McLaren and Honda announced they would part ways after the season, tensions between driver Fernando Alonso and his team were high enough that the Spaniard was rumored to be leveraging his presence against Honda's. With his skills in demand, some alleged he could go to Williams, and having spoken highly of his experience driving the Indy 500, others still thought he would abandon Formula 1—if only for a year—for a chance to show the world what he's made of on a level playing field. When McLaren announced it would use Renault engines next year, in lieu of Honda's, Alonso got his wish, and all that remained was to reaffirm the contract between driver and team for 2018.
As of Thursday, McLaren has formally announced that Fernando Alonso will remain with the team through the 2018 season, alongside Stoffel Vandoorne.
"It’s fantastic to be able to continue my relationship with everybody at McLaren," said Alonso, in the team's press release, "It was always where my heart was telling me to stay, and I really feel at home here. This is a fantastic team, full of incredible people, with a warmth and friendliness that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in Formula 1. I’m incredibly happy to be racing here."
Formula 1 may not be Fernando's sole mistress in 2018, though. A report by Sportscar365 alleges that Alonso has talked to the IMSA team United Autosports, for an appearance at 24 Hours of Daytona this upcoming January, driving a Ligier JS P217, a car approximately equal to an FIA WEC LMP2 car. Part of the plausibility of this story comes from the fact that the team is operated by Zak Brown, the same man in charge of McLaren's Formula 1 team. Brown is noncommittal about the possibility of Alonso driving for United, however.
“We’ve been focused on getting our F1 stuff going, which is coming together,” said Brown to Sportscar365, “Then we’ll have a conversation about any extra-circular activity."
Driving the 24 Hours of Daytona would be an excellent way for Fernando Alonso to cut his teeth on the rigors of endurance racing. Having stated an interest in earning the Triple Crown, which means winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he'll need a way to prep for the French leg of the journey. Testing the waters in Daytona may be the best way to prepare himself for a trip to Le Mans.