Fernando Alonso: McLaren driver could take 2016 break from F1

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Yas Marina
Will Fernando Alonso take a sabbatical in 2016?
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Venue: Yas Marina Circuit Dates: 27-29 November
Coverage: Live BBC TV, radio and text coverage of the race. Full details here.

Fernando Alonso could take a sabbatical from Formula 1 next year if McLaren remain uncompetitive, the team's chairman Ron Dennis says.

Alonso is contracted until the end of 2017, but McLaren struggled in their first year with engine partner Honda.

Dennis said: "I have an open mind. Some ideas have involved those sorts of considerations - sabbatical years."

Alonso admitted he discussed the idea with Dennis some time ago but it was now his "intention" to race in 2016.

"I discussed many ideas but not at this part of the year," Alonso said. "We feel so much more positive than before with the recent pace of the car. It is something we didn't discuss for four or five months already.

"My intention is to race and I think I will race."

fernando alonso
Alonso has suffered several breakdowns, related to the new Honda engine in his McLaren

Former F1 driver Mark Webber, who is close to Alonso, said he believed the 34-year-old would make a final decision after trying the 2016 McLaren in pre-season testing next February.

"I think he is a ticking bomb," Webber said. "I think give him two or three days in the car and if the car is uncompetitive I think he'll have a year off."

But Alonso said that it would be "impossible to know how the season will go" after one test, adding: "If we are second or ninth, it will not change my approach or my intention to keep winning that season."

The Spaniard said after the Japanese Grand Prix in September that he "didn't know" whether he would race at McLaren next year.

Later that day, he put out a series of tweets reaffirming his commitment to McLaren, saying: "No-one should have any doubt that I have three years with McLaren and my career in F1 will end with this team, hopefully winning everything."

Nevertheless, insiders have continued to express doubts about whether Alonso, who left Ferrari for McLaren at the end of last season because he believed they would give him a better chance of winning a third world title, could face another season at the back of the grid.

Alonso and Button fool around in Brazil

There have been suggestions since Japan that if the Honda engine remains uncompetitive in 2016, Alonso could take a year out and come back to fulfil the final two years of his contract in 2017 and 2018.

Although he and team-mate Jenson Button have generally remained positive and optimistic in their public utterances in 2015, their frustrations have occasionally surfaced.

Dennis said he believed McLaren and Honda would be more competitive in 2016.

He told a news conference at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday: "We have a great number of driver options. We have two of the best drivers in the world in our cars.

"When we have to take the decision, we will take it together and at this moment in time our drivers of next year are Fernando and Jenson Button."

Fernando Alonso McLaren
Alonso qualified in 17th place in Abu Dhabi: watch the race live on BBC One and online from 12:10 GMT.

He added that Alonso "will definitely finish his career in McLaren".

Dennis said: "We have quite a lot of confidence in where we will be at the beginning of next season. It is most definitely going in the right direction.

"We are going up a painful curve, but up it we will go and we will get there."

McLaren will almost certainly finish ninth of 10 teams in the championship this season, meaning their garage will be moved to the far end of the pit lane.

Dennis said: "I know where the motorhome will be but I don't think the car will be matching that position."

Abu Dhabi GP coverage details

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