McLaren believes it can gain a “competitive advantage” from Fernando Alonso’s influence on its Formula 1 operations in the 2019 season.
The two-time F1 world champion has decided to quit the sport following his latest disappointing campaign with McLaren, which failed to make the progress it had hoped for in 2018 despite a switch from Honda to Renault power units.
Alonso will instead look to complete the final leg of his quest for motorsport’s triple crown by winning the Indianapolis 500 alongside racing in the World Endurance Championship, while McLaren will field a revised driver line-up consisting of Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris.
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown revealed McLaren remains in “ongoing discussions” with Alonso over a role to remain involved in its F1 activities despite his other racing commitments, suggesting the Spaniard could test the team’s 2019 F1 car.
“I’m very happy to have Carlos and Lando in our race car,” Brown said.
“I think they are two very exciting drivers, the youngest driver line-up in McLaren’s history and I think potentially on the grid next year.
“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,” Brown added. “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.
“So I don’t think it’s difficult to balance Fernando’s influence. He is a very experienced, great racing car driver and 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.”
Sainz, who first drove for McLaren in the Abu Dhabi tyre test following last year’s season finale in November, has spent time at McLaren’s Woking factory over the winter break in preparation for his first season with the team.
The Spaniard’s approach has already made an impression on Brown, who reckons Sainz will benefit from his close relationship with Alonso and learn from his fellow countryman’s vast experience.
“Carlos spent some time with Fernando understanding the team,” he said. “So Carlos having a relationship with Fernando pre-dates 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.”