Two-time former world champion Fernando Alonso has dismissed rumours he could take a sabbatical or even retire due to his frustration with McLaren’s inability to compete at the front of the grid.
The Spaniard signed a hugely lucrative three-year deal to join the Woking-based team in 2014, but suffered the most disappointing year of his career last season as McLaren’s new partnership with Honda produced an unreliable car.
Rumours emerged that the 34-year-old could fail to see out the season if he didn’t see significant improvements from the MP4-31 early in the campaign.
However, he insisted he plans to fulfil his contract.
“I am absolutely surprised, but every week there are rumours,” said Alonso.
“When there are too many weeks without action on the track there is a dangerous tendency to be created in the news. Now we’re on track hopefully there will be no rumours.
“Of course (I’ll see the season out) and the next one.
“I have never planned a sabbatical. The idea came up in Abu Dhabi (at the last race of 2015) and I refuted it the next day.
“Last year we had an immature car, but we have made important developments this season.”
Indeed, Alonso managed more laps on his first day of pre-season testing in Barcelona on Tuesday than all of last season when his preparations were also hindered by a crash which forced him to miss the Australian Grand Prix.
Hopes are high McLaren can at least rise through the grid to fight for points behind favourites Mercedes and Ferrari.
However, after seeing Mercedes complete nearly 350 laps on the first two days of testing, Alonso is predicting another year of dominance for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
“The ambition for the team is very high, I’m not here just to travel around the world and jump in the car and have some fun on Sundays,” he added.
“I’m here to win. All the drivers want the same, but the Mercedes domination didn’t finish.
“I think they are very strong, they are doing some interesting days now in testing. With that amount of laps it means you have very clear things, so when they put the potential they are stronger than ever, even more than the past two years.
“Last year there was a lot of pain for us, but we learnt a lot of things and now with a completely new design and philosophy of power unit we have improved, but we still need a little bit of time.”