Dennis open to Fernando Alonso making McLaren return

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Ron Dennis has said that he would have no problem with Fernando Alonso returning to McLaren despite their acrimonious year together back in 2007, which will only act to fuel rumors the Spaniard could be set to leave Ferrari.

However, Dennis did concede that the team needs to improve if it is to lure the two-time world champion away.

“I would have no problem,” he told Spanish publication Marca. “But we need a competitive package before we are able to attract drivers like Fernando.”

The McLaren CEO returned to the day-to-day running of the Formula 1 team at the end of last year after its worst campaign in thirty years, replacing Martin Whitmarsh. He has since looked to revamp the team with the arrival of young driver Kevin Magnussen, and a deal with Honda has already been struck that will see the Japanese manufacturer power McLaren in 2015.

Alonso’s one year stint with McLaren in 2007 was a story of success and conflict. The Spaniard expected to be the number one driver at the team alongside then-rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton, but tensions grew when the Briton challenged him. The season was also marred by the spygate scandal, which resulted in the team being excluded from the constructors’ championship and fined $100m. Ultimately, Alonso and Hamilton finished level on 109 points, one behind eventual champion Kimi Raikkonen.

At the end of the year, Alonso walked away and returned to Renault, with whom he won his world titles in 2005 and 2006. Upon joining Ferrari in 2010, a new era of success for both the driver and the team was expected, but the car has rarely given him a chance of winning the title despite coming close in 2010 and 2012.

Last summer, Alonso sparked rumors that he might be on the lookout for a seat elsewhere when he was quoted as saying that he wanted “someone else’s car” for his birthday. Despite him since insisting that he will remain at Ferrari, by opening the door, Dennis could yet tempt him to come back to Woking upon Honda’s return.

Should Alonso indeed make the move, it would most probably result in Jenson Button’s contract not being renewed, and given that he is in the final few years of his career, it could force him into retirement.

The move would also have implications for McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne, who is widely acknowledged as being Button’s natural successor, and is thought of very highly by the team.

However, as Dennis said, so long as McLaren remains fighting for the small points, it will take a lot to tempt Alonso away from Maranello. This rumor is only set to rumble on for the rest of the season, though.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.