Fernando Alonso has committed his future to Ferrari after McLaren confirmed interest
Martin Whitmarsh told Sky F1 he would re-sign Spaniard if available
By Pete Gill and William Esler. Last Updated: 20/09/13 8:35pm
Fernando Alonso has committed his future to Ferrari in the wake of McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh confirming he wanted to re-sign the Spaniard.
McLaren have refused to confirm their 2014 driver line-up amid tentative hopes that Alonso could be persuaded to return to the team to partner Jenson Button next season.
However, those hopes appear to have been dashed by Alonso's emphatic assurance he will stay on at Ferrari despite the appointment of Kimi Raikkonen as his next team-mate.
"Not really," the Spaniard told Sky Sports News when asked if a return to McLaren, where he spent a tumultuous year in 2007, attracted him.
"I keep repeating every weekend - and I don't know why I have to keep repeating - I love Ferrari and I will stay in Ferrari until the end.
"It is nice to have the comments from the other team principals every year saying they respect my job and my professionalism - especially McLaren as there were so many rumours that we had a lot of problems that year, but I always say that I had no problems with anyone. It was just the philosophy of the team or rather one man in the team that is no longer there."
Alonso's Ferrari contract runs for another three seasons and the Spaniard, echoing comments he first made at Monza two weeks ago, has reiterated that he would even consider extending it.
"It is good to have these comments, but I have no intention (of leaving). I have three more years with Ferrari and I hope many more to come if we can extend the contract and that will be my hope," Alonso added.
There had been speculation that the double-World Champion was upset at the recruitment of Raikkonen, but Alonso says the Finn was his first choice as a new team-mate upon being told Felipe Massa would not be retained.
"Of course - I was pushing for that decision and finally they took Kimi and it is good," Alonso said.
"But again, that is for next year. We have been together with Felipe [Massa] for four fantastic years, but when the team decided to change Felipe, in the driver market Kimi in my opinion, and in the team's opinion, was the best option. But what we need to do now is fight for this 2013 Championship."
But despite first making a public commitment to Ferrari ahead of the Italian GP, speculation that Alonso's relationship at Maranello may not continue until the end of 2016 has continued to fester - particularly after the team last week confirmed Raikkonen would be returning to the team.
Those rumours were fuelled by Whitmarsh's remarks to Sky Sports News in Singapore on Friday morning - although the McLaren chief added the caveat that he "expected" the team to retain both Button and Sergio Perez for 2014.
But Whitmarsh's clear admission that he would be open to Alonso returning to Woking, despite the two parties' acrimonious parting six years ago, nonetheless has continued to provoke much paddock debate over McLaren's longer-term driver targets.
"We can read it many ways," mused Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz. "Can we read this that Martin Whitmarsh is trying to destabilise Ferrari, one of his competitors.
"Okay, maybe they're not fighting wheel-to-wheel on the track at the moment, but they are one of his close competitors. But destabilise them by telling the likes of us, and therefore the general watching public, that Fernando Alonso might be available, that it's even a possibility that he could even leave Ferrari and drive for McLaren.
"So while I don't think we're talking about 2014, I think what Whitmarsh is coming out and saying is that McLaren is a place where top drivers might still want to come - and that's important considering the year McLaren have had - and also that Fernando Alonso and perhaps his management have had discussions with other teams, opening up the possibility that Alonso might want to leave Ferrari sooner than his current contract dictates."
Sky F1 expert Mark Hughes agreed that if McLaren were to make a concerted push to re-sign Alonso then 2015, when Honda return to provide their engines, would be the most likely target.
Alonso McLaren eh? Think 2015. But interesting McLaren's putting it out there.- Mark Hughes (@SportmphMark) September 20, 2013