The start of the 2015 Formula 1 season could not have gone much worse for Fernando Alonso. After missing the opening race in Australia through concussion, Alonso has failed to score a single point and struggled even to make it through the first stage of qualifying in a McLaren that has been desperately off the pace after a disastrous testing schedule.
At the same time, the team he elected to depart in the winter, Ferrari, has showed signs of being able to compete in a way they never were in his five years there. All of which may go a long way to explaining why the 33-year-old recently hinted that he is already envisaging a future away from Formula 1. Certainly his former teammate at Renault Nelson Pique Jr. understands the Spaniard’s predicament.
“It's frustrating -- you're the best but driving ninth, 10th,” Piquet Jr, now competing in Formula E, said, per BBC Sport. “I'd understand if he wants to retire. I wouldn't discount him doing that for a year or two, then returning.
“He was thinking moving back to McLaren would be very good, and the salary must have been part of the reason. For some reason they are not doing well. He's paid a lot of money to do what he does best and he wants to deliver. But when there are no means to do it you will have a very frustrated person.”
Alonso had a sensational start in Formula 1, becoming the then youngest drivers’ champion in history in 2005, before repeating his success with Renault the following year. But it has been a baron time since then. His first spell at McLaren lasted just a single season after an acrimonious falling out with a team where future world champions Lewis Hamilton was emerging. While many still consider Alonso the most talented driver on the grid, Ferrari failed to deliver a car that gave him a realistic chance of landing a third title.
He cut he losses at the end of last year, but the move has thus far been a huge disappointment. In his absence, Ferrari have taken the fight to last year’s dominant team Mercedes in a way few expected. Alonso’s replacement, Sebastian Vettel, took the victory in Malaysia, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished second in Bahrain last time out. Speaking earlier this month, Alonso stated that McLaren would be his last team in Formula 1 and that he was already thinking about a time away from the sport.
“Obviously I would like to win because we are sportsmen and we are all competitive but also, thanks to my age and thanks to the moment of your career, you start looking for other things,” he said, according to the Daily Express.
Just when Alonso would step away still remains to be seen and it could yet be some way off, with his contract at McLaren running until the end of 2017. But Spanish publication Marca has claimed that Alonso is determined to compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race as soon as possible, and would have done so this season had it not been for scheduling conflicts. For Alonso, much is likely to depend on how quickly McLaren can improve. Speaking ahead of his home Grand Prix in Spain in just over a week’s time, Alonso has said that he remains optimistic and that he expects the team to take a significant step forward.
“We are all united,” he said in an interview with the official Formula 1 website. “We are all grown up and committed to this project. Nobody is panicking in this tough moment - and panicking can be very easy in such a tough situation. I predict that in Barcelona we will see the first huge step and also the power effect is low in Monaco so we should also have a good race there. My prediction is that the next three races will be very interesting for us.”