SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Fernando Alonso says his decision to test a McLaren Formula One car next week should not be interpreted as the first step towards a return to the series in 2020.
Alonso left F1 at the end of the 2018 season to pursue new challenges, but after just two races away he will return to the cockpit of a modern F1 car to complete one and half days of tyre testing in Bahrain.
Among those new challenges is a second attempt at winning the Indy 500 in May and the completion of his first season in the World Endurance Championship in June. He has no further commitments to race beyond those events, meaning a return to F1 in 2020 could be possible.
"As I said last year, and in Barcelona [testing] as well, my idea is not to come back," Alonso said. "When I said 'bye bye' last year, it was because this chapter is already complete and I achieved in F1 a lot more than what I dreamt of.
"I had great opportunities outside F1 to do things that are unprecedented, so that is why I took the decision. Coming back is not in the plan but if something happened and a great opportunity arrived, I would consider.
"I don't close doors 100 percent to anything in the future."
Next week's test will be based around evaluating the latest Pirelli tyre compounds and Alonso's track time will be dictated by a run plan designed by the Italian tyre supplier. On face value, it holds little interest for a two-time world champion, but Alonso said he hopes to help McLaren understand its car.
"I'm part of the McLaren family and whatever my contribution can help the team I'm happy to do it," he said. "I will be in the car on Tuesday and Wednesday but I will be here from now until Sunday hopefully giving some inputs if I see something in the race, if I see something on the setup, if I heard something on the radio that I can understand differently compared to how an engineer can understand from the drivers. Maybe it's not only testing whatever help I can give 360 degrees I will be happy.
"For me, it's a case of being a test for myself to go back to this driving style, to understand a little bit the car, understand what are the limitations of the car if the tyres allow me to feel what is the limitations, which axle is the limitation, which part of the corner we are strong, which part of the corner we are weak, but I think maybe the team has more interest than myself in the car."
Asked if he watched the opening round of the F1 season in Australia two weeks ago, Alonso added: "It was good, it was good. I watched it in the afternoon on the replay because I was flying home from Sebring and then when I got home I took the computer and I watched the race. I knew the result so that changed a little bit the perspective, but it was very relaxed."