McLaren is confident Fernando Alonso will not struggle with an increased workload as a result of racing in the World Endurance Championship this season, and believes it could make him even quicker in a Formula 1 car.
Alonso will compete in the 2018/19 WEC ‘Super Season,’ with the only question mark being the 6 Hours of Fuji, which might undergo a date change in order to avoid a conflict with the United States Grand Prix. Despite racing in two world championships during the season, chief engineering officer Matt Morris believes Alonso’s enjoyment of the new challenge will prove beneficial to his performances in F1.
“He’ll be absolutely fine,” Morris said. “I think you get the most out of Fernando when he’s happy and if he’s happy doing these other things then I think we’ll benefit from that, that’s my opinion on it. I don’t think he’s going to be tired or anything like that. I think he’s just going to be motivated and for me that’s lap time in F1.”
And executive director Zak Brown insists Alonso’s WEC schedule is not a distraction from his McLaren role.
“No, not at all, because I think what would he be doing on those weekends otherwise? He wouldn’t be testing in a Formula 1 car, he wouldn’t be here on our simulator. There’s only so much he can do. We’ve got everything we need out of him on the Formula 1 front so these are weekends he would either be in a go-kart or golfing or whatever he wants to do, and so he’s just going to be in a Toyota WEC car.
“He knows what he’s getting into. He’s unbelievably prepared. He went from the 24 Hours of Daytona and then went and did a simulator test with Toyota for however long he did in the car. He’s back in action and I think he’s a very special athlete who can do things that probably most of us around this table would get knackered, but I don’t think he would do it if he didn’t think he could do it at the highest level.”
Brown also says Alonso will not be labored with commercial commitments as part of his Toyota role, with McLaren limiting what it will let the double world champion do for the Japanese company.
“Fernando’s effectively restricted to just driving the race car. So as far as commercial appearances, sponsor commitments and things of that nature, that’s very minimized. His relationship with Toyota is he’s on loan from us. We came to an arrangement with Toyota which is to allow him to race the car but not to travel the globe doing commercial commitments.
“It’s for everything from minimizing his travel to any potential sponsor conflicts. Toyota don’t really have many sponsors on there so there aren’t any sitting there today that are in conflict with McLaren, but if they do find a partner that’s conflicting with McLaren we couldn’t have Fernando walking around in competing sponsor attire.
“And he’s a McLaren driver first and foremost and a Formula 1 driver. That program, he’s going to go there and try and win the championship because that’s what he does, but when you think of Fernando you think of him as a McLaren Formula 1 driver first and foremost.”