The beginning of Formula 1’s summer break traditionally marks the beginning of another important period of the year: driver market silly season.

As teams begin to cast their eyes ahead to 2020 and who will form their line-ups, the way the dominoes may fall is starting to be gauged. Most are waiting on Mercedes to make a decision on Valtteri Bottas’ future before moving and seeing what the knock-on effect will be for the rest of the grid.

But one name outside of the current field continues to be thrown into the mix: Fernando Alonso.

Now without any firm racing plans in the pipeline after leaving Toyota’s LMP1 squad following his second Le Mans win in June, Alonso’s name is being banded about once again as part of F1 silly season despite a comeback for 2020 looking highly unlikely.

The possibility of Alonso returning to F1 was put to Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel in the post-race press conference on Sunday after the Spaniard took to social media to praise the battle at the front of the pack. The trio were fairly non-plussed by the suggestion, which ultimately descended into some banter between them about where a vacant seat may lie.

“The sport needs the best drivers in the best seats, and there is still at least a seat available that’s good enough for winning, and he’s good enough for winning,” Hamilton said, later telling Verstappen that “you’re the one with the extra seat” amid Red Bull teammate Pierre Gasly’s ongoing struggles.

It is true. Formula 1 does want to have the best 20 drivers in the world fighting week in, week out. And a driver of Alonso’s ability once again competing at the very head of the field would be an exciting prospect.

But even in the nine months that have passed since his last grand prix appearance in Abu Dhabi, it feels like F1 has moved on from Alonso.

Gone is the pity pointlessly put his way for not being able to show his true talents due to the car’s limits. Gone is the regular criticism of F1. Gone are the regular reminders of his achievements, especially the famed 21-0 qualifying defeat of Stoffel Vandoorne in 2018 that was being rolled out as recently as May this year.

Gone is much of the negativity that came with Alonso.

That is most evident at McLaren. So much has changed at the team over the last 12 months to allow it to emerge as the leading midfield outfit, with the driver line-up being the most obvious difference. Wiping the slate clean and having two young racers in Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris has been a breath of fresh air for the team, aided by their clear friendship and the element of fun they have brought. Andreas Seidl’s arrival as team principal has also been crucial to its development moving forward as well, offering laser-focus on the F1 operation instead of the many-hats role CEO Zak Brown had to play last year in the wake of Eric Boullier's departure.

Saying none of this would be happening with Alonso still on board is, of course, unfair and inaccurate, as it’s impossible to know for sure. Had he stayed on, maybe the team would have even more points to its name. But there would still be the dismay that Alonso is not contending for race wins and championship that doesn’t come with McLaren’s current line-up. Seeing Sainz P5 is rightly recognised as a massive achievement, instead of a “that’s great but…” you would get with Alonso finishing there.

McLaren’s eagerness to sew up its line-up for 2020 and continue with the Sainz/Norris partnership shows how the team has also moved on. Alonso remains part of the McLaren family as its ambassador, and is top of the list for an IndyCar drive if the team were to commit to a programme again in the future – but the F1 operation is focused fully on Sainz and Norris moving forward as they look to build on such an impressive start to the year.

Zak Brown said last month that McLaren would not stand in Alonso’s way were he to find a way back onto the F1 grid in the future – but where?

Mercedes is the natural place some hope for, rekindling the rivalry with Hamilton and giving Alonso the best chance to fight for a third world title. F1 world champion-turned-YouTuber Nico Rosberg even said after Hungary that a petition should be started for Alonso to get the Mercedes seat ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon.

But it will never, ever happen. Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has already confirmed the 2020 seat is a shootout between Bottas and Ocon, and would never dare to rock the boat with Hamilton who is in the form of his life as the undisputed #1 at the team. Verstappen joked that Alonso could talk to Wolff, to which Hamilton quickly said: “Valtteri’s great, Valtteri’s been winning.”

And Red Bull? Yes, Gasly is underperforming, and yes, the team must consider a change for next year if the Frenchman does not show a step in performance through the second half of the season. Its limited junior options may force it to look outside the Red Bull family for the first time since Mark Webber joined in 2007.

One word tells you why it would never happen though: Honda. Off-mic after the Alonso chat in the press conference, Vettel quipped that “I don’t think the Japanese would be very happy.” There is complete refusal from Honda to engage with Alonso at any level, with that policy even stretching to its American branch in IndyCar. So Red Bull is a complete no-go.

With Ferrari also not an option given how things soured at Maranello towards the end of his time there – can you see a theme? – the only alternatives would be in the midfield where Alonso would not be able to properly show his talent, as we heard time and time again from 2015 onwards.

There is no room at the inn for Fernando Alonso right now in F1, which is doing just fine without him. Between Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, Bottas and Charles Leclerc, we have five drivers more than capable of fighting for race wins at the front as seen this season. Even with Alonso in the mix, that number would be capped at six – so what more would it offer, really?

So we may as well just move on. Leave Fernando to build the legacy he wants by doing every other discipline that interests him, with the Dakar Rally next on the radar. But forget about F1 needing him or vice-versa.

Because even if the latter ends up being true, F1 does not feel poorer for Alonso’s absence in 2019. Not one bit.



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