Fernando Alonso and Mercedes have played down rumours linking the Spanish driver with Nico Rosberg’s newly-vacant 2017 seat.
Team boss Toto Wolff has made a point of saying that almost every F1 driver has been in contact since Rosberg’s seismic retirement news on Friday.
Some reports said that Alonso, currently under contract to McLaren-Honda, was an early favourite to reunite with his former teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“If I was Niki Lauda or Toto Wolff, my first choice would be Fernando Alonso,” Jo Ramirez, the former McLaren team manager, told Marca.
Yet Wolff admitted to Germany’s Bild am Sonntag that the way Alonso and Hamilton clashed in 2017 is still remembered.
“Of course Fernando has a [past] story,” he said.
“It was at McLaren but it also had a lot to do with Mercedes and did not end very nicely.
“But at the same time, we are going to be defending our title in the constructors’ world championship, so I would not rule anyone out.”
Team chairman Niki Lauda said even watertight F1 contracts can be broken.
“There are many contracts with small print and performance clauses,” he told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
“It is now our duty to find these clauses among the drivers who are interested in us.”
Yet at an end of year Honda event in Japan, Alonso indicated that he has every intention of staying with McLaren-Honda.
“It is an honour to be on this team,” he said.
“We are in this fight to win, and I say to all the Japanese fans, I’ll see you again next year.”
The 2017 season begins with the Australian Grand Prix in March.