Fernando Alonso completed his Ferrari career on Sunday still refusing to confirm widespread speculation his next move is to McLaren-Honda. But he is now giving big hints. "It will not be a surprise," the Spaniard said in Abu Dhabi. "You are very close," he grinned to television reporters who told him it is obvious he is returning to Woking.
The former King of Spain Juan Carlos was a guest of Alonso's at the 2014 season finale, and he told Spanish television Antena 3 what everyone in the world of F1 already suspects. "I'm here to support Fernando in his last race (for Ferrari)," said the 76-year-old. "He told me he is going to join McLaren and that he's very happy."
Alonso initially appeared uncomfortable when told that the former King had let the cat out of the bag, insisting "I'll leave it to you (reporters) to talk about". But Speed Week quotes him as adding: "I cannot disagree with the King. He is always right."
According to insiders, the only possible alternative to McLaren within F1 for Alonso next year is a shock switch to dominant Mercedes. But on Sunday, the German squad was busily hailing its unchanging 2015 lineup featuring new champion Lewis Hamilton. And even Alonso was admitting he is not heading to Brackley.
"We have seen this year that Mercedes has a great advantage," he said, "and they may have it next year too. I'm going to start a project that is aimed not only for the next year," revealed Alonso. "It is a long-term partnership and a project that hopefully can challenge Mercedes soon and that is why I have taken this step," he added.
Alonso also hinted that returning to McLaren, where he clashed so spectacularly with supremo Ron Dennis back in 2007, will be no obstacle. "I went from Renault to McLaren and then back to Renault," he said.
"From what I read, I'm not the most pleasant person to work with, but the bottom line is that I can usually go back to a team where I worked before. That's a good sign," said the 33-year-old. "I miss being on the podium to celebrate with champagne and winning races and world titles. My new project is aimed at getting back to that goal, maybe not in the first year, but I have no doubt that it will be like that in the future again."
All the signs are that Alonso's 2015 teammate will be the in-house McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, even though the veteran Jenson Button has not yet been told definitively that his 15-year formula one career is now over. "I talked to Ron after the race, like I do after every race," Button told reporters on Sunday. "But still no news. We'll see in a few days. When I walked into the garage before the race it was tough because all the mechanics were ready for the man-hugs. It was really tough and you could see it in their faces." (GMM)