Formula One - F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne, AustraliaFormula One - F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 23/03/2017 McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain poses during the driver portrait session at the first race of the year. REUTERS/Brandon Malone
By Abhishek Takle
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso is not ready to swap his recalcitrant McLaren for a supermarket trolley just yet, despite the Formula One team's troubled start to the season prompting speculation about whether the Spaniard will see out the year.
The double world champion and McLaren endured a frustrating season opening race in Australia, following on from pre-season testing marred by a lack of power and reliability from their Honda engines.
Alonso, despite putting in what he called one of the best drives of his career, could only battle for the lower points positions, before dropping out of contention altogether and eventually retiring.
His team mate Stoffel Vandoorne could only finish 13th and last, after being lapped twice by Sebastian Vettel's race-winning Ferrari.
That McLaren felt the result exceeded expectations was a sign of how far in the doldrums the sport's second most successful team are.
McLaren's form renewed speculation about whether the 35-year-old, in the final year of a three-season deal, would stick around.
Former driver and Alonso's close friend Mark Webber also cast doubt on his future in comments to Belgian media.
"Definitely not true," Alonso told reporters on Thursday ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
"I prefer to be here than to be in the supermarket in my hometown."
"I keep competing because I want to have more trophies.
"I am in Formula One, I'm delivering at my best, I'm more prepared than ever, I'm performing at my best," he said.
McLaren, who last won a race in 2012, went into the season expecting to make a big step up the order after a season of progress following a troubled reunion with engine supplier Honda in 2015.
But the Japanese manufacturer's continued struggles with the V6 turbo-hybrid formula have left McLaren, who finished sixth overall last year after ending 2015 ninth, mired near the bottom of the pecking order.
The team expect to struggle even more this weekend in Shanghai and Alonso's plight has not gone unnoticed.
Former McLaren team mate and rival Lewis Hamilton, in particular, has expressed a desire to see him in more competitive machinery.
When asked if he could switch teams next season, perhaps even moving up to Mercedes alongside Hamilton, Alonso didn't rule it out.
"I have nothing to say right now, it's a question for the future," he said, adding: "Nothing is ruled out in life."
(Writing by Abhishek Takle, editing by Neil Robinson)