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Brown expects ‘positive conclusion’ to Alonso contract status soon

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Although no deal has been struck yet, McLaren’s Zak Brown is optimistic to have a new contract in place for Fernando Alonso to continue with the team soon.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion has made no secret of his desire for McLaren’s power unit situation to improve, and with the team now having confirmed its 2018 switch from Honda to Renault at the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, getting Alonso’s contract sorted alongside Stoffel Vandoorne is the next course of action.

Brown expects to have a contract completed in the not-too-distant future and with Alonso set to feature at the FIA Press Conference on Thursday, the potential exists that a contract could get sorted this week.

“We’ve been close for some time,” Brown told U.S. reporters in a pre-United States Grand Prix teleconference.

“We wanted to get the Asian swing out of the way and our new power unit partner in place which is now done… (so) I expect we’ll have a positive conclusion to our plans with Fernando here in not too long.

“He’s in the FIA Press Conference on Thursday. We have to get a deal done before anything is announced.”

Brown indicated a McLaren Indianapolis 500 bow is less likely in 2018 and more likely in 2019, following this year’s shotgun marriage that saw McLaren, Andretti Autosport and Honda all work together with INDYCAR to provide Alonso a shock debut at this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Any new contract for Alonso would provide for one-off race exceptions on a “case-by-case basis,” Brown said, which doesn’t come as a surprise.

“We have not signed any contracts, so until a contract is signed I don’t know what will be in or out,” Brown said.

“Fernando has a desire to win the Triple Crown as we all know. He’s a pure racer who would like to race every weekend and has a desire to race other races. It’s something we’re certainly open to doing with him when and where appropriate.

“We’re also open-minded to allow him to compete in other races on a very limited basis if the scenario is complementary to his Formula 1 efforts, and not detrimental to his Formula 1 program.

“What we wouldn’t allow is to run in multiple racing series. But like Indy, if there’s the occasional one-off, on a case-by-case basis we’ll allow him to do that.”

Such a one-off scenario, if not Indianapolis next year, could be in sports car racing.

Brown’s United Autosports team has at least one and highly likely two Ligier JS P217 prototype entries set to race at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with newly crowned FIA Formula 3 European champion Lando Norris and Philip Hanson that team’s first two named drivers.

Brown expressed interest for both McLaren to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well, as has Alonso, although the regulations now don’t have a place for McLaren’s 650S GT3 or 570S GT4 car. United Autosports made its Le Mans debut this year in the LMP2 class with its European Le Mans Series regular trio of Will Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer and Filipe Albuquerque.

Le Mans does not conflict with the F1 calendar in 2018 as the 24-hour race falls between the Canadian and French Grands Prix, on June 16-17, 2018.

“Le Mans is something we’re looking at,” Brown said. “The rules right now, with what the ACO and Le Mans organizers are working on the future rules so it’s something we’re participating in meetings as a manufacturer. Le Mans is of interest but whatever rules they land on need to be a good platform. We’re monitoring and participating (in these discussions) with interest, but it’s premature to make a final decision.

“On Indy, never say never but I’d say it’s less likely than more likely (for 2018). When we go back to Indy, not if, we need to go with the same competitiveness and fanfare that we created we did this year. We set a high bar, and that won’t be easy!

“We’re not going to Indy just to go. We have to go with a shot to win and in a high profile manner. Sitting here today, we’re so focused on Formula 1. So we expect to be at Monaco with a very competitive race car.”

Times for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix on the NBC Sports networks are linked here.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”