Bernie Ecclestone says he would have done whatever he could to stop Fernando Alonso skipping the Monaco Grand Prix in order to race at the 2017 Indy 500 if he was still in control of Formula One.
Alonso is missing F1's most famous event to make his debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, something made possible by new McLaren CEO Zak Brown's desire to expand the team's racing portfolio. The Spaniard admitted this week that it would have been unlikely former McLaren chief Ron Dennis, who was ousted last November, would have allowed him to do it.
Like Dennis, Ecclestone was a prominent figure in F1 for several decades, holding a controlling role since the late 1970s. He was removed from a position of power by F1's new owners Liberty Media at the start of the year, moving instead into the role of chairman emeritus.
During his first appearance back in the paddock since F1's change in ownership, Ecclestone said he would have tried to block what has become the biggest news story of the 2017 season.
"I think it's probably good for him," Ecclestone told reporters in Bahrain. "I think if I could have persuaded McLaren not to go I would have done it.
"I would have said wait until your contract finishes and then you can do what you like but you are in the middle of Formula One and you are a Formula One driver. But I don't like to see him at the back of the grid anyway."
Alonso's Indianapolis announcement has been followed by Friday's confirmation Jenson Button will return to race duties for the Monte Carlo race, stepping up from his role as reserve driver. Button took a sabbatical from F1 at the end of last season but has an option on his contract to return to McLaren in 2018 if the team wants him back.