Fernando Alonso has indicated he’ll be staying at McLaren for 2017 despite there being a seat available at Mercedes.
Although many fans – and indeed Mercedes themselves – would love to see him back in a front-running car, Alonso gave a speech at the McLaren Technology Centre that suggests he’ll be staying put for 2017.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) December 13, 2016
Speaking to the staff in Woking, he said “I believe in this project, I’m committed and I want to be world champion with McLaren-Honda. That’s my only goal.” This backs up comments also made by Flavio Briatore who said that Fernando would honour his existing contract, which expires at the end of 2017.
With Alonso seemingly out of the running that leaves Valtteri Bottas as the favourite to take the vacant Mercedes seat, despite their initial bid for him being rejected by Williams.
With pretty much every other top driver having solid contracts with other teams, Mercedes could find themselves in a bit of a pickle if Williams refuse to give up Bottas. Pascal Wehrlein seems like an obvious option, but it would be a massive risk for them to take on such a relatively inexperienced driver.
Ideally Mercedes will want a driver who is fast, experienced, understands the pressures of running at the front and who knows how to win races. With Button and Massa retired, that leaves them only one other choice: Pastor Maldonado.