McLaren CEO Ron Dennis is confident that great years lie ahead of two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso at the team despite enduring a difficult year in 2015.
Alonso returned to McLaren at the end of 2014 following a five-year stint with Ferrari, but toiled to his worst season since debuting with Minardi back in 2001 due to a myriad of problems with the new Honda power unit.
Alonso scored points in just two races – Britain and Hungary – and finished 17th in the drivers’ championship, prompting suggestions that he could take a sabbatical from F1 in 2016 unless McLaren improved its car for the new season.
In an interview quoted by the official F1 website, McLaren boss Dennis made clear that Alonso has a three year deal with the team that he will see out, and also said that the Spaniard knew that 2015 may be a year of turmoil upon joining the team.
“Fernando’s contract is of three years’ duration – no performance clauses, no nothing,” Dennis said. “He always knew that 2015 would be a learning year.
“He knows equally well that, together with Honda, we’ll make big improvements. So he joined us with open eyes.
“Together with the expertise and experience he’s cultivated over the past 15 years spent racing in Formula 1, he still bristles with energy and enthusiasm.
“He’s had better years than 2015, obviously, but he knows that great years lie ahead of him, with McLaren-Honda.”
Arguably, Alonso’s finest hour came in Brazil when he began sunbathing on a deck chair after being sidelined by an issue on his car in qualifying, sparking the #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe meme on Twitter.
Dennis, renowned for his corporate and official nature, admitted that Alonso’s actions did amuse him before praising the Spaniard.
“I chuckled to myself, to be honest,” Dennis admitted. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of humour.
“And Fernando is as hard-working as he is talented, be in no doubt of that. He’s matured enormously since he last drove for us, eight years ago, and he’s now one of the most complete drivers I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
“He has what I often refer to as the four e’s that all racing drivers should aspire to cultivate: energy, enthusiasm, expertise and experience.”