Fernando Alonso will drive McLaren’s 2019 car for the first time when he carries out tire testing duties for Pirelli after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
McLaren will be running two cars during the post-race test in Bahrain, with all 10 teams carrying out two days of testing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Alonso — who has yet to drive a 2019 car after retiring from F1 at the end of last season — will be in the car being used for Pirelli tire testing on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, with Carlos Sainz driving on Wednesday morning.
The Pirelli car’s run plan will be defined by the tire manufacturer, with no new parts allowed to be tested by the team as a stable baseline is required throughout the two days.
It was announced during pre-season testing that Alonso (pictured watching pre-season testing with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Zak Brown) would drive the MCL34 at some stage this season, as McLaren wants to get the two-time world champion’s feedback on both this year’s car and next year’s development. Alonso remains a part of the team as an ambassador as well as driving for its IndyCar project.
Alonso has also hinted he could return to F1 in future if given the opportunity in a competitive car, and sees testing as an important aspect for understanding changes in the sport, with new regulations having been introduced this year.
In the team’s primary car, Sainz will drive on Tuesday morning but Lando Norris will carry out the remaining one and a half days of testing given his status as a rookie driver. Teams must use rookies for at least two of the four in-season test days, and with the first test taking place after the second race of the season, Norris still falls into the rookie category as a driver who will have started no more than two grands prix.
Mercedes is expected to take advantage of that rule by running Williams driver George Russell at some stage during the Bahrain test, but Red Bull opted against doing the same with Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon. Max Verstappen will drive on the opening day before 2018 FIA F3 European championship runner-up and Macau winner Dan Ticktum gets his F1 debut on Wednesday.