McLaren CEO Zak Brown says he is confident the team can keep hold of Fernando Alonso for the 2018 Formula One season, providing it can give him a competitive car.
McLaren endured another weekend to forget at the Bahrain Grand Prix as Alonso retired in the closing stages with a power unit issue, while Stoffel Vandoorne failed to even make the start having been plagued by engine problems in his MCL32 throughout the weekend. The Spaniard once again let his frustrations show in the race, claiming he had never driven with less power than he had in Bahrain.
When asked if he remained confident Alonso would stay at McLaren, Brown told Sky Sports F1: "Well if we give him a good race car we will keep him, I'm confident of that. He really likes the environment. He's been great to work with. He's frustrated but he's a team player and he's helping to motivate us and we want to give him, and Stoffel, a great car. I think a good race car and he sticks around."
Alonso's future has been the centre of debate in recent months with his three-year contract at the Woking-based outfit set to run out at the end of this season. Speculation cooled last week when McLaren announced the two-time world champion will miss next month's Monaco Grand Prix to contest the Indianapolis 500.
The move to allow Alonso to skip a grand prix in favour of pursuing his aim of becoming just the second driver in history to win motorsport's Triple Crown (Indy 500, Monaco GP and Le Mans 24 Hours) has been seen as an attempted 'sweetener' by McLaren to boost the team's chances of retaining Alonso in 2018. Renault is said to be the latest team looking to offer Alonso a route out of McLaren, and Brown admits the rumoured interest comes as no surprise.
"Yeah I wouldn't be surprised," Brown said. "I think everyone in the pitlane would like to talk to him that has a seat available. You have conversations and we're not going to put all our eggs in one basket. That would be irresponsible on our behalf as well.
"But that is who we want in the car and we've agreed to pick up those conversations in the summer when we have a better sense of where we are. I think he is going to stick to his word, we are going to stick to our word, and if he has some coffees with some friends along the way then that wouldn't be any great surprise."