Not going lie here, Mercedes has to consider Fernando Alonso. Nico Rosberg’s retirement has left a void in the Mercedes AMG team that only a few can fill at the caliber they want. Fernando Alonso ticks all their boxes. He is one of the most experienced drivers in Formula 1, is a two-time Drivers Champion (2005 & 2006), and it isn’t exactly a secret that his 2nd stint with McLaren Honda has been less than enjoyable. All signs point to him being the obvious choice to fill Mercedes’ vacancy.
In what might go down as the most “no shit” moment of this entire thing, Mercedes AMG boss Toto Wolff has admitted Mercedes is interested in the two-time champ. Alonso is on the short list of drivers who would command equal status with Lewis Hamilton. Equal status is something Mercedes wants within its team with its two drivers. This is the philosophy that has netted them the past three World Constructors Championships. Mercedes wants to operate under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.
“You have to consider Fernando,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “He is a driver I respect a lot. He combines talent, speed and experience. It’s all there. He is in a contract with McLaren-Honda at the moment and we just need to weigh all the other options up.”
Therein lies the issue, Alonso isn’t exactly readily available. Alonso is very much still under contract with McLaren. McLaren, who just saw its own World Championship winning driver retire, will be very keen to keep their star driver. Alonso may want to leave and go to a team ready to win right now, but McLaren is not going to let Alonso out of his contract without a fight.
Even if Mercedes was able to wrestle Alonso away from McLaren there are still other issues at play. Chief among which is Lewis Hamilton and Alonso weren’t exactly BFFs during their time at McLaren in 2007. Alonso did not like the fact that he did not receive lead driver status while at McLaren with Hamilton. The divide between the 2 would have to be rectified if they were ever to team up at Mercedes. Wolf has been adamant that both drivers would receive equal status. Equal chance to win races and Championships. Alonso’s ego may not like this but the fact remains, Being equals at the dominant team in F1 is better than being the lead dog at the middle of the road team that McLaren has been in recent years.
“Both drivers will have equal status and equal opportunity to the best of our abilities,” Wolff said. “We owe it to the fans. You can’t have a pecking order.”
Alonso has made his intentions very clear. He wants to compete for his 3rd World Championship first. With a possible move to the WEC and Le Mans second. Alonso spoke about his future at this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Alonso has been in limbo since his last title in 2007. He hasn’t won a race since driving for Ferrari at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix. Alonso wants to win, and he wants to win sooner rather than later. Something that might not be achievable right now at McLaren.
“I like the category, I like the cars (LMP1), and it’s a good challenge.” Alonso said regarding the WEC. “But that’s future, I don’t know if it means in two years’ time, in five years’ time, or in 11 years’ time. I don’t know yet. It’s nothing new. The first thing that I want to do, and I will do, is to win a third world championship in F1, and then I see.”
Drivers like Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are obvious choices for Mercedes. Vettel has distanced himself from the Mercedes rumors deciding for now that his Ferrari contract is the best thing for him. Vettel and Alonso have everything a team wants to win right now. Problem is they aren’t cheap. To sign either would require an enormous financial investment. First you have to meet their contract demands and that doesn’t even take into consideration if either McLaren or Ferrari would even let them out of their deals. If they were to do so there would likely be a massive buyout in order to get either out of their existing contracts. Were talking many, many, many millions of dollars.
This isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Mercedes is a very desirable seat for obvious reasons. Every driver who has ever sniffed a World Championship recently is going to be linked to the vacancy. While we can all hope and dream for that dream driver to pair with Lewis Hamilton the simple facts of the sport means the new Merc driver will likely be someone else. Given the timing of everything I firmly believe Mercedes factory driver and current Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein. Wehrlein impressed many with his drives for a team that is less than spectacular. When you combine all of the factors for 2017 at least, Wehrlein would appear to be the front-runner for the 2nd Mercedes seat.