F1: McLaren holding off 2017 driver talks

McLaren-Honda has yet to begin discussions over who will be Fernando Alonso’s teammate for the 2017 Formula 1 season, according to the team’s racing director Eric Boullier.

Alonso has one more season remaining on the original deal he struck to leave Ferrari and return to Woking for the start of the 2015 F1 season, while current team-mate Jenson Button is out of contract at the end of the present campaign.

McLaren also has to consider the future of reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who won the GP2 title in 2015, scored a point on his F1 debut subbing for the injured Alonso in this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, and claimed a podium on his debut in Japan’s Super Formula where he currently competes for Honda-powered Dandelion Racing.

Vandoorne recently said there is interest from rival F1 teams in securing his services, while McLaren chairman Ron Dennis issued a hands-off warning to those rivals during the recent Monaco Grand Prix.

When asked if this situation creates some stress for McLaren in terms of its future driver line-up, Boullier replied: “No. Absolutely nothing. We have not started discussing anything with any drivers. It’s too early in the season and it would be too distracting for the team.”

Boullier added it was “part of the game” to hold off on contract negotiations in order to keep the drivers on their toes and performing at their best.

Button has endured contract uncertainty during each of his past two seasons at McLaren.

When Alonso rejoined the team Button almost lost his seat to Kevin Magnussen after the Dane’s rookie campaign, and there were suggestions Button might quit F1 altogether last season, before he agreed to see out the final year of his contract.

Button was asked again whether he wanted to continue in F1 with McLaren beyond the end of this season.

“I have not thought about the Canadian Grand Prix yet let alone next year,” he said on Saturday in Monte Carlo. “That’s all I have for you.”

Originally on Autosport.com

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