Last week the two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso said he wasn’t taking a holiday this year as he tried to push McLaren to a breakthrough.
That was an admirable sentiment, but this week the veteran Spaniard has gone further. Much further – he is targeting the 2017 championship.
“Next year we want to win the world championship – it may sound strange being where we are, but the goal is that.”
There have been hard times at McLaren during their now 18-year wait for a constructors championship, and none harder than their recent partnership with Honda that has had them tumble down the grid. The famous outfit who dominated the 80’s with drivers like Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna and won titles in the late 90’s with Mika Hakkinen haven’t won a race since the 2012 season and it hasn’t even been close with Honda, whose return to Formula One came with an unreliable and underpowered engine last season.
While improvements have been made they are still lagging behind the other engine manufacturers who have had longer to fine-tune their units under the current set of regulations. However those regulations are coming to an end after this season and a whole new raft of rules will be in place for 2017 – giving Honda and McLaren something akin to a reset button.
For Alonso though, 2017 may be his last. His contract with McLaren expires after next season, by which time he will be 36. Alonso has decried the direction Formula One has been going recently, but the competitive fire still burns inside him – he wants to drive on the limit, attack and be at the front like he was in the 2000’s. Unfortunately the modern Formula One set up doesn’t allow that…
“We can never go to the limit of the car, we can never attack when we want, because the tyres do not allow it. If you push too much, you overheat and lose grip. If you use too much of the engine, you go out of the parameters of consumption. To be fast in today’s Formula 1 you should not attack, this is the secret.”
Alonso’s feeling is shared by many F1 fans, but things like in-race refueling are unlikely to ever be brought back due to safety concerns. If only a title challenge in 2017 will keep Fernando Alonso interested and invested in Formula One then it is likely 2017 will be the great Spaniards last season in F1.