SEPTEMBER 17, 2017

Alonso-McLaren announcement due within days

An announcement to confirm that Fernando Alonso is staying at McLaren next year is due within days.

An announcement to confirm that Fernando Alonso is staying at McLaren next year is due within days.

The Spaniard is believed to have pushed for the British team to dump Honda and sign up for 2018 with Renault, with whom he won his two titles over a decade ago.

"We are close to a contract extension with Fernando," international reports quote McLaren director Zak Brown as saying.

American Brown was speaking after a key dinner meeting with Alonso, 36, in Singapore.

"We have a plan B, but I'm confident it will work out with Fernando," he added.

Speed Week speculates that McLaren's 'plan B' is the retired Jenson Button, who actually remains under contract to the Woking based team for 2018.

The final sticking point could be talks over Alonso's huge retainer, given that Honda's departure also means a $100 million sponsorship hit.

Brown said: "Fernando is one of the best paid drivers in the sport, and for us to retain him he will continue to be one of the best paid drivers in the sport.

"We have very committed shareholders who have told us to do whatever it takes to win," he added.

Also confident McLaren will retain Alonso is team boss Eric Boullier.

Referring to the Honda split, the Frenchman said: "I'm happy and relieved.

"It's good to know that next year we are going to have a more competitive car -- or we hope so. But we have a good base now and all the tools to fight the other teams.

"Now we must focus on closing the deal with Fernando. We are very close to finalising it. We have already agreed the most important points in terms of years and money.

"It is just a matter of details," Boullier added.

Another detail could be McLaren allowing Alonso to take part in the fabled Le Mans race next year, having already tried his hand at the Indy 500 this year.

Toyota has already expressed interest in signing Alonso.

"I think 2018 is too early for McLaren to be at Le Mans," said Brown. "But we have talked about it with Fernando and if it's something that he would like to do, he would be free to do it in the right circumstances."

Finally, Alonso was asked why McLaren did not announce his contract extension over the Singapore weekend, when a spate of other deals also saw light of day.

" I think there were too many announcements this weekend," he smiled.

"It was also very important to deliver the best possible result. After here I will be at the karting world championship. Then I will be in the factory and the simulator and it will be a better time to discuss the future," said Alonso.