LONDON (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso would be on the list of possible replacements for retired Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes despite his contract with McLaren, according to team boss Toto Wolff.
“You have to consider Fernando,” the Austrian told Sky Sports television in interview to be broadcast on Thursday as part of a look at Rosberg’s season.
“He is a driver I respect a lot. He combines talent, speed and experience. It’s all there. But he is in a contract with McLaren-Honda at the moment and we just need to weigh all the other options up.”
McLaren said on Monday that Alonso was happy where he was and they were not worried about the double world champion Spaniard leaving.
Rosberg stunned Formula One, and threw a spanner in Mercedes’ plans for 2017, when he announced his retirement on Friday five days after winning his first world title in Abu Dhabi.
The seat he leaves behind is the most coveted in Formula One, with Mercedes winning 19 of 21 races this year and clinching both world championships for the third season in succession.
Between them, Rosberg and triple champion team mate Lewis Hamilton lost just eight races in three years and started all but one on pole position in 2016.
While big names like Alonso have been bandied about, all the top drivers are under contract with rival teams who are unlikely to countenance their departure for the sport’s most dominant team.
Alonso is, however, out of contract at the end of 2017 and that has also triggered speculation that Mercedes could opt for a stop-gap if serious about signing the 35-year-old who partnered Hamilton at McLaren in 2007.
The favorite for the empty seat remains the team’s German reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein, who raced for tail-enders Manor this year.
Wolff said that whoever was signed, he would have the same terms to Hamilton.
“Both drivers will have equal status and equal opportunity to the best of our abilities. We owe it to the fans. You can’t have a pecking order,” he said.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond