McLaren intends to start negotiations with Fernando Alonso about a new contract "a few races" into the 2017 F1 season, executive director Zak Brown has revealed.

Alonso re-joined McLaren on a three-year deal in 2015, and while he has previously said he is 100% committed to the team, he hasn't stood on the F1 podium now since Hungary 2014, when he was in his final season with Ferrari, and his last win was in Spain the previous year. The Spaniard has also hinted at a possible exit should the new formula this season not provide the 'extreme' challenge he craves.

Speaking to NBC Sports, Brown admitted Alonso will be in demand, but that they are keen to retain him.

"He's definitely committed to the project, but his contract is up and he's in high demand as you can imagine," Brown confirmed.

"[Sebastian] Vettel's out of contract next year [too], that's my understanding. So as you can imagine, next year's going to be an exciting driver market.

"Obviously we'd love to keep him. He's one of the greatest drivers on the track, if not the best.

"But we're just going to see how things go and kick off those conversations a few races into the year."

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Brown also conceded that Alonso's decision will hinge on how McLaren-Honda performs and if it can make another step forward.

"Yeah. If I were him, I'd want to see how we perform before I started making decisions," Brown added. "You can't blame him for that."

"But I think we're all waiting to see and that goes both ways," he underlined.

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