McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes there is every chance Fernando Alonso could return to Formula 1 after a year off in 2019.
Alonso announced during the summer break that he will not race in F1 next season, and clarified in Belgium that he sees his departure as a retirement from the category. At present there is no confirmation of any extra seats for Alonso aside from his ongoing Toyota drive in the World Endurance Championship, and Brown thinks we might not have seen the last of the Spaniard in F1.
“It is very exciting,” Brown told Channel 4. “Fernando is an unbelievable talent. It will be a shame not to see him in F1 in 2019, but I would not rule out the future. You know what Fernando is like — he definitely is not done racing.
“And Stoffel (Vandoorne), I hope he ends up in a F1 car — he deserves to be in one. We’ve had a difficult two years with our race car, which has made it difficult. We changed both drivers and I’m very excited. Carlos Sainz is young yet experienced, and Lando Norris whom we’ve had under watch for a few years now. He is young, I’m sure he will have a rookie mistake here and there, but we are very confident about our future line-up.”
The promotion of Norris comes just four years after the 18-year-old won the karting world championship and Brown concedes McLaren needs to ensure it doesn’t expect too much from the teenager, having seen the likes of Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne fail to fulfill their potential with the team.
“Lando has been outstanding in everything he has done since the first year, starting with winning the world karting championship. Some of these drivers go on and blossom late. Some go early, so we have to be very careful to manage our expectations on Lando.
“He is fast, a great racer, but in F1 there is a lot of tough talent out there. We are confident or we wouldn’t have put him in the car. But we gotta just be patient and recognize that these things take a little bit of time.”