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Fernando Alonso extends McLaren F1 contract, will stay for 2018

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Fernando Alonso will remain with McLaren in Formula 1 for the 2018 season after signing a contract extension with the British team, announced on Thursday ahead of the United States Grand Prix weekend.

Alonso joined McLaren for a second stint in 2015, only to spend the last three seasons mired in F1’s midfield and towards the back of the grid due to a lack of performance from the team’s engine partner, Honda.

McLaren announced in September it would be splitting with Honda at the end of the season, linking up with Renault in a bid to try and return to the front of the pack.

Alonso was known to be seriously considering his future with the team, but with few alternative options emerging, the Spaniard opted to extend his current stint with McLaren into a fourth season.

“It’s fantastic to be able to continue my relationship with everybody at McLaren,” Alonso said. “It was always where my heart was telling me to stay, and I really feel at home here. This is a fantastic team, full of incredible people, with a warmth and friendliness that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in Formula 1. I’m incredibly happy to be racing here.

“Just as important, McLaren has the technical resource and financial strength to be able to very quickly win races and world championships in F1. Although the last few years have not been easy, we have never forgot-ten how to win, and I believe we can achieve that again soon.

“The last three years have given us the momentum to plan and build for the future, and I’m looking forward to that journey.

“I’m excited for our future together – and I’m already working hard to make it a success.”

Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group, added: “I’m delighted to be able to confirm that Fernando will remain at McLaren. He has been a fantastic asset to the whole organization for the past three years, is an incredible individual and is one of the most accomplished and talented racing drivers of the modern era.

“It always made sense for us to continue our journey together.

“His commitment will allow us to further improve the attractiveness and po-tential of the wider Group, and will ensure we head into 2018 feeling in-creasingly confident that we’ll be able to take a meaningful step forward. Fernando fully understands and buys in to the direction we are taking.

“Our shareholders have ambitious plans for the whole Group, and success within Formula 1 is a central pillar of that strategy. With Fernando, there is no doubt that we have a driver who can help us achieve our goal of winning again in F1 – and, believe me, we are all keen to do that.”

Alonso has stressed his bid to become just the second driver in history to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport – comprising the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans – is a key focus in his racing future, having made his Indy 500 debut earlier this year.

Options are thought to be on the horizon for Alonso to race at Le Mans next year, with no date clashes existing with any F1 commitments.

Alonso will race alongside Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren once again next year after the team confirmed in August it would be continuing with the Belgian as planned for 2018.

Brown hinted a deal was close in a teleconference with reporters earlier this week, and then McLaren posted this video in advance of the announcement. The team added a bit more in a further tweet.

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.”