Fernando Alonso will not be in a Mercedes car next season after his manager insisted the former Formula 1 world champion would honour his contract with McLaren. Mercedes are looking for a teammate for Lewis Hamilton following Nico Rosberg's sudden retirement.
Rosberg announced his decision to end his F1 career days after winning his first title, when he finished second to Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Just as Mercedes were pondering on what should be another dominant season with the two best drivers in the field, on form, in their seats, the Rosberg announcement changed everything.
Now, Mercedes need to find a driver they think will be capable of challenging Hamilton for the Formula One championship next season.
Alonso was identified as an option, with Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff admitting they were considering the former Ferrari driver. However, the Spaniard's manager Flavio Briatore has come out and said his client will stay with McLaren until at least the end of 2017, when his contract ends.
"We have an agreement with McLaren and we are going to respect that," Briatore told Gazetta Dello Sport.
With an experienced option seemingly gone and the rest of the established stars all under contract – Sebastian Vettel has also been linked with a move, despite being at Ferrari – Mercedes might be forced to take a punt on a relatively unheralded driver.
Meanwhile, Wolff has revealed that Hamilton will not face any disciplinary action after the former world champion ignored team orders in the final stages of the race in Abu Dhabi. Needing to push Rosberg out of the top three to stand a chance of winning the title, Hamilton slowed his pace considerably to try and put Rosberg into traffic, despite the team, time and again, asking the Brit to increase his pace.
In hindsight, however, Wolff believes the team should have perhaps just allowed the two drivers to race, considering there was an F1 title at stake and Mercedes had already locked up the constructors' crown.
"In the heat of the moment, sometimes when you make decisions, you get them wrong," Wolff was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. In our mind, the way we think, this race was giving us the same number of points as other races and we try to win that one, considering that there was much more at stake for the drivers.
"How the race panned out, we should have communicated differently and in hindsight let them race in the way they deemed to be appropriate."