November 28, 2015

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Fernando Alonso has played down suggestions he could take a sabbatical from Formula One in 2016 due to McLaren's poor performance this season.

McLaren chief Ron Dennis made a surprising comment on Saturday that he was open to the idea of the two-time world champion taking a year off before returning to complete his contract in 2017, when Honda expects to be providing a more competitive engine.

Asked after Saturday's qualifying session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix whether he intended to compete next season, Alonso said ''I will, I will.''

The Spaniard didn't take Dennis' comment personally, saying ''if he wants to put pressure on someone I'm sure it's not me. If it's someone, it has to be on Honda so they do a good job all winter.''

McLaren had been expected to be off the pace this season in Honda's first year back as an engine supplier, playing catch-up to rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, which had a significant head-start in developing the complex V6 hybrid-power turbo engines.

However, improvement over the course of the season has been frustratingly slow, and at times Alonso and teammate Jenson Button have allowed their exasperation to show.

Button has been confirmed for next season, and while Alonso is nominally under contract through 2017, there have been reports of loopholes and escape clauses in his contract.

Dennis' comments Saturday stirred up fresh talk that Alonso may be on the way out.

''He will definitely finish his career at McLaren,'' Dennis said.

''I have an open mind to anything, and some of the ideas involved those sorts of considerations: sabbaticals etcetera.

''When we have to take the decision, we will take it together, and at this moment of time, our drivers for next season are Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.''

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