Huge blow in Mercedes’ search for Rosberg replacement

DESPITE speculation that former world champion Fernando Alonso is in the sights of Mercedes, his current employers, McLaren, say he will not be joining the leading outfit.

The 35-year-old is one of a host of drivers linked to the seat shockingly vacated by 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg last weekend.

Rosberg stunned the sport by announcing his retirement just days after claiming the F1 crown, leaving Mercedes scrambling to find a replacement, with most of the driving appointments already settled for next season.

Alonso has had a frustrating time with McLaren since rejoining the team in 2015, with the British outfit struggling with their Honda-powered engines.

But despite this crew chief Zak Brown told Sky Sports that McLaren’s partnership with Alonso will continue into 2017 and beyond.

“We have a contract with Fernando and he is very happy,” Brown said. “Obviously he wants to be winning races, as do we, but I am not worried. We are comfortable with where we are at.”

Whoever takes the coveted seat at Mercedes will have to partner Lewis Hamilton, something Brown advised Alonso against given the turbulent history between the British driver and a number of his teammates over the years.

Alonso has had his own problems with Hamilton in the past when the pair were teammates in 2007, in the Spaniard’s first stint at McLaren.

The pair were reportedly not on speaking terms throughout Alonso’s tenure and the team allowed the two-time F1 champion to return to Renault, despite having a further two years to run on his contract with the team.

 “I don’t think it will be a good move, in a year like this, against Lewis who feels very much at home (at Mercedes),” Brown said.

Alonso signed a three-year contract with McLaren in 2015, with the team declaring at the time that the driver’s deal did not contain performance-related clauses that would allow the Spaniard to opt out and make an early exit, should a more attractive offer present.

The McLaren driver finished 10th in the 2016 driver’s standings, some 331 points behind champion Rosberg.

Should Alonso stay with McLaren for 2017, he will partner Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne after former stablemate Jenson Button retired from the sport following the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

‘Bye, sorry about leaving you in the lurch’

With Alonso out of the running, Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas has firmed on the shortlist of potential recruits. The Finnish driver is managed by Mercedes’ Head of Motorsport Toto Wolff.

MotoGP star Valentino Rossi, who Wolff lightheartedly suggested as an option, has also responded to having his name linked to the vacant position.

Rossi is no stranger to four-wheeled varieties having competed in World Rally Championship events, as well as testing an F1 car with Ferrari in the past.

The Italian remains under contract with Yamaha in MotoGP, but encouraged Wolff to get in contact.

“I did not know the words of Wolff, but it would be nice to try the Mercedes,” Rossi said.

“Maybe it would be a means of betrayal against Ferrari that remains in my heart, because I was lucky enough to try the machine and I’m very good friends with many guys in Maranello (home of Ferrari).

“But how could I say no to a test with Mercedes. It would be very difficult”.