Former F1 driver Mark Webber has cast doubt over whether Fernando Alonso will see out the 2017 season with McLaren due to the Spaniard's growing frustration at the team's current situation with Honda.
Alonso offered a grim assessment of McLaren's current place in the pecking order after retiring from the Australian Grand Prix, saying the team is last despite the fact he ran in 10th for much of the race. McLaren entered the season off the back of a horrid pre-season for engine supplier Honda plagued with reliability and performance issues.
Webber, who retired in 2013 but has remained in F1 as a TV analyst for Channel 4, has suggested his friend Alonso's patience is wearing thin.
"Maybe Fernando's not there the whole year..." Webber told Belgian news agency Sporza when talking about McLaren.
When asked to clarify what he meant, he replied: "Fernando might not do the whole year. He's frustrated like hell, he doesn't even want to finish seventh or sixth.
"It's not like [teammate] Stoffel [Vandoorne], maybe points for him is quite nice, Fernando's not interested in points, he wants to be fighting for podiums. So mentally he's a long, long way away from where he wants to be."
Honda's problems are so severe McLaren approached Mercedes after the Barcelona tests to enquire about the possibility of rekindling their old engine supply, which ended when the Japanese manufacturer joined the grid in 2015. McLaren and Honda put on a unified front to categorically deny those rumours in Melbourne.
Honda entered the V6 turbo era a year late in 2015 and was restricted by the engine development token system in its first two seasons. However, the scrapping of that system ahead of 2017 was seen by many as the opportunity it had been waiting for to return to the front of the grid. Despite a radical redesign to incorporate the split turbo design used in the dominant engine pioneered by Mercedes, Honda has fallen well short of expectations.