Fernando Alonso insists he will be on the grid with McLaren-Honda in 2016 after Ron Dennis' assertion that he would consider allowing him to take a sabbatical until the car is competitive.
The McLaren F1 boss suggested Alonso could be permitted to take time out of the sport and return when McLaren is able to make more sweeping changes to its car in 2017 as it prepares to conclude its worst season for 35 years this season.
"I have an open mind to anything. Some of the ideas have involved those sorts of considerations - sabbatical years,” he said in a press briefing
in Abu Dhabi.
However, Alonso has expressed his surprise at the comments, insisting it remains his intention to stay on the grid, adding that Dennis' words may need more clarification.
“I will be, I will be [on the grid]. “I have been answering the same question to all your colleagues and when Ron says something I think you have a perfect opportunity to ask him to clarify some of his quotes because I don't know what his intention is behind it, or what he means with some of the things.
"It's always the same thing when Ron or some driver says something; you want me to reply, infer or guess something. I think the best thing to do is to ask him what he meant because I don't know what to say. There's no pressure on me from his words, if there's pressure it's on Honda, to do a good job during the winter."
Discussing it again on Saturday evening in a press briefing, Alonso admits the topic of a hiatus has been raised and that he would never completely rule it out. However, he insists he still plans to race in 2016.
"I think you can never say 100 per cent anything. I cannot say that tomorrow I will not have dinner, because I don't know if I will be hungry or not.
"My intention is to race and I think I will race. We will see how it goes next year and it is not in my plans not to race.
"Just to add to how strange the comment is, if I were to take a sabbatical I would have taken this year! I kept racing, kept fighting and kept pushing the car uphill to go to the pit lane, so that's how it was."
Indeed, Alonso has maintained a positive outlook for the team heading into 2016, despite a dismal first season in a car beset by persistent technical and performance issues. Ahead of the final race, which he will start from 17th, he retains that opinion.
“We have a tough winter in front of us improving the car and hopefully next year when we put the new McLaren on track, it will be competitive enough that we will all enjoy next year.”