McLaren-Honda has opened the door for Fernando Alonso to renew his contract beyond the end of next year.
“If he continues working and driving in the same way for us, we would like him to stay,” team boss Eric Boullier told the Spanish sports daily Marca in China.
Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert caused a stir in Bahrain recently when, as the Spanish driver recovered from chest injuries, the Briton urged Alonso to retire.
But Boullier said: “It has been a difficult four weeks for Fernando, but he has behaved like a really motivated driver whose sole ambition was to return to the car as soon as possible.
“We told him he could go home in Bahrain to rest, but he preferred to stay with us,” the Frenchman revealed.
When asked about speculation Alonso is close to calling time on his career anyway, Boullier answered: “Everyone can think what he wants, but I think retirement for him is still far away.”
As for Herbert’s criticism, he continued: “It is his opinion, but mine could not be more different.
“I have not seen anyone as motivated as Fernando. He is one of the main pillars of this team.”
And Boullier said Alonso will have noticed the progress McLaren-Honda has made so far in 2016, revealing: “We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel now.
“By Monaco we will have one of the best chassis and we could reach the podium, why not?” he added.
He dismissed the suggestion McLaren is actually a formerly great team on a downwards spiral, demonstrated by the fact the Woking team has failed to sign up a title sponsor.
“No problem,” said Boullier. “We have a group of sponsors that is enough, including Honda, so we do not mind not having a title sponsor.
“Last year we did not win (much) money being ninth place in the world championship, but this year being around fifth, we will,” he added. McLaren-Honda is currently eighth in the standings with a single point.
“The team, as a company, has always made money,” Boullier explained.