McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown is confident any role for Fernando Alonso in next year’s Formula 1 project will not undermine Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
Alonso is committed to another attempt at the Indianapolis 500 alongside the Rolex 24 and the remaining rounds of the World Endurance Championship in 2019. Although the Spaniard remains part of the McLaren set-up through the Indy project and might test the 2019 F1 car, Brown doesn’t feel the need to try and balance Alonso’s influence with the responsibility he gives to the race drivers.
“I’m very happy to have Carlos and Lando in our race car next year,” Brown said. “I think they are two very exciting drivers, the youngest driver line-up in McLaren’s history … And of course Carlos has good experience, this being the third team he would have driven for, and Lando you’re all well aware of his credentials, but he’s a rookie.
“Fernando is still part of the family in competing in the Indianapolis 500 with us. He, like many drivers, some of those which you still see on the grid — Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, etc. — continue to have influence with their respective teams, and so I don’t think it’s difficult to balance Fernando’s influence. It’s welcomed and he is a very experienced, great racing car driver.
“He has a long relationship that dates back pre-McLaren with Carlos and then of course has been teammates with Lando in Daytona, so I think his influence is positive and welcomed. Both by McLaren, the engineers and the drivers. So it’s something that we embrace and hope brings us a competitive advantage, so it’s quite positive for us.”
Brown says talks are continuing but not yet finalized with Alonso over what his role with the F1 team will be, including any potential testing time.
“Carlos, as soon as he signed with us — in fact I think before he signed with us — he spent some time with Fernando understanding the team. So Carlos having a relationship with Fernando predates McLaren’s. All intelligent drivers pull on different resources that they have and so Carlos and Fernando, those were conversations that Carlos wants some of Fernando’s experience to accelerate his learning curve.
“We have spoken with Fernando about an ongoing role. That’s an ongoing discussion. That’s a decision I think we’ll make in the next 30 days. Fernando himself has been wanting to get the season behind him, settle a bit and then decide what he wants to do next year.
“Obviously he’s got WEC, he’s now doing Daytona, he’s doing the Indianapolis 500, so those make his first half of the year pretty busy. But I would be very surprised if you didn’t see him at some Formula 1 races in and around McLaren offering his expertise. That potentially would include him testing our car at some point.”