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McLaren to open contract talks with Fernando Alonso in ‘middle of the year’ as Zak Brown wants to keep him

McLaren executive director Zak Brown has said he “would love to retain Fernando Alonso” for the 2018 season but insisted that discussions over a new contract would not take place “until the middle of the year”.

With McLaren yet to score a point this season and Alonso’s current contract set to run out at the end of the year, the Spaniard’s future with the team remains in question.

Alonso’s involvement in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, one of the most iconic races in the global motorsport calendar, has raised further speculation that the 35-year-old’s time at McLaren is coming to an end.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner notably labelled Brown as “mad” for allowing Alonso to feature at this year’s Indy 500 and miss the Monaco Grand Prix in doing so.

But Brown remains hopeful that Alonso will commit to McLaren for the 2018 season, insisting that the Spaniard continues to “thoroughly enjoy” his time with the team.

“We’d love to retain Fernando for 2018 but we agreed before the season started that we’d wait until the middle of the year to have those discussions and negotiations without changing course on that,” Brown told The Independent.

“We’re racers. We race as one team. McLaren-Honda. We’ve got two drivers. Fernando being one of them, and [he] has stated his desire to try and win the triple.

“I think Fernando thoroughly enjoys the McLaren team and so this moment he’s a racer, I think he’s enjoying that we’re doing this opportunity together but we know it’s not ‘you do this, you do that’, this is how McLaren-Honda do motor-racing.

 “I think it just demonstrates we’re creative thinkers and racers, and that’s an environment he loves.”

This follows racing director Eric Boullier’s comments that McLaren must “deliver the impossible” to persuade the Spaniard to stay next season.

McLaren are rooted to the bottom of the championship after the season’s opening five rounds, with their two Honda-powered cars…

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