Lewis Hamilton says regardless of what Fernando Alonso decides to do for 2018 he would like to see the two-time Formula 1 world champion return to the fight at the front.

The Mercedes driver was quizzed whether he missed battling with his former team-mate at the sharp-end of the F1 grid which provided some classic encounters during the early stages of Hamilton’s career, while things boiled over in Hungary in 2007 as McLaren team-mates, and the British driver felt ‘the best drivers in the best teams’ need to be scrapping at the front.

McLaren is expected to announce its split from Honda after three frustrating years of unreliable and underpowered engines in order to switch to Renault power from 2018 as it aims to return to fighting for wins and podiums.

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Alonso’s future in F1 and at McLaren is far from sealed but speculation in the paddock points towards the Spanish driver signing a new one-year deal to stay at the Woking-based team, in order to keep his options open for 2019, with his hopes of competing for an F1 world title.

Hamilton feels it would aid F1 if Alonso and McLaren returned to the front of the grid and challenge the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

“I hope that he’s got a car to fight with us next year,” Hamilton said. “I think not only we expect a challenge, but we want to see the best drivers in the best teams up there and it’s been a shame not to have McLaren where they historically have been.

“So I hope that whether it’s with McLaren or wherever Fernando happens to be next year he has a chance to be fighting with us.”