Williams' Paddy Lowe has confirmed that the team is aiming to secure the best driver lineup that it possibly can for 2018, although he has remained coy about the rumour of Fernando Alonso joining the team next season.
Alonso currently drives for McLaren and his contract with the Woking-based team runs out at the end of this year. At Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, the Spaniard had one of his toughest races of 2017 yet. Despite having a good start to get into seventh, he quickly dropped through the field and out of the points, later retiring although it is has been suggested that he faked an engine failure to do this.
In Belgium, Alonso gave a very clear ultimatum, saying that it is either "Honda or me" for 2018. This was at the same time that rumours were rife in the paddock that Williams had offered the driver a deal for 2018. To this, Alonso confirmed that he has received multiple offers for next season and that he is considering them, although it is unknown if Williams Racing is one of the teams in question.
The team's Chief Technical Officer, Paddy Lowe, played down the rumours but did say that they are still considering their driver lineup for next season: "We haven't announced who's driving for us next year. It's something we're still working on. I'm not going to rule [Fernando] in or rule him out," said Lowe. "There are lots of great drivers out there and we will always try to get the best ones we can."
It is known that Claire Williams has the final say of who will dive for her father's team next season, and as Lance Stroll brings an expected budget of £20m, it is nearly certain that he will be retained for a second season. The big question remains over Felipe Massa's place at the team and it is no secret that he wants to stay. Whether this happens is another question however, and he confirmed in Spa that his future will become clearer in the next few races.
Three years at McLaren has marked three years of consistent disappointment for Alonso and he is seeking a 'winning' drive for 2018. As Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have confirmed their driver lineups for next season and with Mercedes looking set to retain Valtteri Bottas for a second year, Alonso has little chance of securing the 'winning' drive that he seeks.
Williams may not have a race winning package at the moment, but they would be able to provide Alonso with the Mercedes power unit that he has coveted for some time. As outlined by Paddy Lowe, a "great driver" such as Alonso has the ability to to push Williams up the grid, offering an increase in performance through development and a return to the sharper end of the grid.
"You need great drivers and great cars to win races. You have to build a car that attracts a great driver and vice versa. The better the car you have, the better the drivers you can attract," he said. "I've seen how important the driver is in a team. A good team needs a good driver as much as a good driver needs a good team - they lift each other.
"With a greater driver in the team, everybody is motivated to work that bit harder for performance because they know it's going to be exploited and deliver great results. But it can go the other way if you have drivers that are not performing," he explained.
It expected that Fernando Alonso will make a decision regarding his future in September.
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