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Alonso says motivation is key to contract extension

By Reuters - Sep 19,2016 - Last updated at Sep 19,2016

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain arrives at the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix on the Marina Bay City Circuit in Singapore on Saturday (AP photo by Yong Teck Lim)

MADRID — Fernando Alonso says he is only thinking as far ahead as next season and any extension of his McLaren Formula One contract beyond 2017 will depend on how he feels about the sport.

“I’m 34 and I could go on for more years but it’s all about motivation and willingness,” the Spaniard told Cadena Ser radio. “I’m just thinking about next year.

“We will see how I feel when the time comes, if I sign a contract extension.”

The double world champion, seventh in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, said the aim was to fight for the championship next season, when the sport undergoes a major rules revamp.

Former world champions McLaren have not won a race since 2012 and endured a nightmare last season at the start of a new engine partnership with Honda after years with now-dominant Mercedes.

“The hunger is always there. After one year and a half without being close to the podium, I have more motivation. I come out as a lion in every race,” said Alonso, who joined from Ferrari at the end of 2014.

Whether he stays or goes could determine the fate of British teammate Jenson Button, who is making way for Belgian Stoffel Vandorne next year but has an option for 2018.

The sport will have wider tyres, new aerodynamics and faster cars in 2017.

“Today’s cars are less attractive, more boring than with respect to a few years back,” said Alonso. “It’s not the Formula One that we knew.

“Next year, with the change of rules, the cars are going to be five seconds faster and I’m hopeful that Formula One will be more attractive for the driver.”

The Spaniard, who won his titles with Renault, predicted that this year’s battle between Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton would go down to the wire.

Rosberg won in Singapore to move eight points clear of triple world champion Hamilton, who was Alonso’s teammate at McLaren in 2007, with six races remaining.

“It’s going to go be close until the end,” said Alonso. “The reliability of the car will be key.”

The Spaniard said McLaren were stepping up the pace.

“Just 12 months ago, we left Singapore with the two cars having abandoned the race,” he said. “The line that we have followed since has been tremendously good and it’s up to us now to continue to work until next March to keep it up.”

Meanwhile, Formula One’s governing body is to investigate an incident that saw cars cleared to race while a marshal was still on track following a Singapore Grand Prix safety car period on Sunday.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said a report would be carried out to ensure such a situation was not repeated.

Autosport.com quoted a spokesman saying procedures were not “properly executed” by the clerk of the course and team of officials.

The marshal was helping remove track debris after the safety car was deployed at the end of the first lap following Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg’s crash into the pitwall at the start.

The cars were released again at the start of lap three but, despite race control confirming three times with the clerk of the course that the track was clear of people and material, a marshal was still out there.

Pictures showed him sprinting to the side of the circuit as the field, led by the Mercedes’ race winner Nico Rosberg, bore down on him.

“It was very dangerous,” Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told reporters. “I’m really happy it ended up with nobody being hurt.”

The Austrian said race control had been asked to re-start races sooner, rather than cars having to spend too long behind the safety car, and that request had been heard.

Rosberg said the incident had been “pretty hairy”.

“I think just as we didn’t expect the re-start, he didn’t either because the re-start was somehow pretty abrupt. Luckily he got out of the way just about in time so it was OK.”

It was the second year in a row that concern had been raised by someone on the track.

Last year, a lone intruder ambled across the floodlit track midway through the race and then strolled by the metal fences as cars came past.

 

A 27-year-old British national was later sentenced to six weeks in jail for breaching the security fences.

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