Former grand prix driver Mark Webber is unsure whether Fernando Alonso will see out the 2017 season after McLaren-Honda endured a difficult Australian Grand Prix.
Alonso re-joined McLaren in 2015 having grown frustrated with Ferrari’s ability to produce a championship-winning car.
However, the gamble has failed to pay off with McLaren’s engine partner Honda struggling to build a competitive engine in their third year in F1.
While Honda has assured a fix for their problems in the coming races, there remains doubt about the Japanese manufacturer’s ability to catch rivals Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault - the trio appearing to be far ahead in the game.
Alonso retired from the Australian Grand Prix with a suspension issue, while Vandoorne was the last of the classified finisher in 13th, two laps down on race winner Sebastian Vettel.
Having known Alonso personally since the time they raced together in junior formulas, Webber suspects that the Spaniard may leave McLaren before his contract expires at the end of the season.
"Fernando might not do the whole year. He's frustrated like hell, he doesn't even want to finish seventh or sixth,” Webber told Belgian news agency Sporza.
"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."
Webber sees a lot of potential in Vandoorne, who has proven his worth with a dominant GP2 campaign in 2015, which was followed by a successful season in Japan’s Super Formula last year.
"He's a good guy with a brilliant career ahead of him." Webber said. "We need talent like that in Formula 1."
"In your first season, you're learning about formula 1.He gets to do it out of the spotlight because everyone is looking at his team and at Honda.
"His car and his team are not competitive, but Stoffel will get there. He can afford a moment like this."
by Rachit Thukral