McLaren’s 2019 driver line-up a ‘jackpot’

Date published: February 17 2018

The 2018 season isn’t even underway and already McLaren are being asked about next year’s line-up, which Zak Brown says is like “flicking the jackpot.”

This year McLaren will race Fernando Alonso, after the Spaniard re-signed in a multi-year contract, and Stoffel Vandoorne while Lando Norris is their official reserve driver.

Norris is keen to prove to McLaren this season that he deserves a race-seat, however, acknowledges that his path may be determined by Alonso and what he wants to do in 2019.

Either way, Brown reckons it is a “luxury situation” for McLaren to be in.

“There are a variety of different scenarios and it is like flicking the jackpot – it could be this, or this or that,” quotes Brown as having said.

“We know what the scenarios are but we haven’t set any expectations yet because you would be predicting too early what you think might happen.

“We’re in a great position where we have three great drivers and two seats which is a luxury situation to be in so we will see how things go before figuring out what the future looks like.”

Last season Alonso won McLaren’s intra-team battle by 17 points to 13.

It was, however, in qualifying where he was most dominant as he put his MCL32 ahead of Vandoorne on 16 Saturdays.

Brown, though, reckons Vandoorne did well taking on the challenge that of Alonso’s ‘superstar’ status.

“They get equal treatment. Alonso gets a lot more of the publicity that doesn’t translate into any different effort in the garage from the engineers.

“Sometimes when you’ve got one part it will go to your more experienced driver. I don’t think that is any different to any other team. They have equal chance.

“I try to move around from garage to garage because I am sensitive to Fernando being such a superstar that you want Stoffel to know he’s got every bit as much support, which he does, but he handles it really well as he is very mature and never shows any signs or comments of that.

“I think he’s in a good place and is very headstrong.”

Alonso names preferred candidates for 2018

Date published: February 14 2018

Fernando Alonso has named the two drivers who he would most like to see win this year’s World title, and it is not much of a surprise.

Without putting his own name forward, the double World Champion was asked by AS to choose a driver to win the world championship.

He replied: “[Stoffell] Vandoorne.”

Asked for another not in his team, he said: “Carlos [Sainz], obviously.”

Okay, so a non-team-mate non-Spanish driver?

“I don’t know, I don’t have any preference,” he said.

As for whether Lewis Hamilton winning again, told that a fifth for the Mercedes driver would be ‘incredible for F1’, Alonso replied: “Right now, yes, because he won last year, but two years ago it could have been Rosberg, who ended as champion.

“And a few years ago, someone else. I don’t know.”

Alonso to debut McLaren-Renault MCL33

Date published: February 13 2018

Fernando Alonso will have the honour of debuting McLaren’s new MCL33, handed the driving duties for the first day of pre-season testing.

The double World Champion will take to the Barcelona circuit on February 26 as testing gets underway at the Circuit de Catalunya.

He will then alternate days with his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, as both spend two of the four days behind the wheel.

McLaren will launch their new Renault-powered car on February 23.

And Alonso cannot wait for it all to begin.

McLaren want a car the drivers can ‘exploit’

Date published: February 5 2018

McLaren are determined to give their drivers “something they can trust and work with” when it comes to their 2018 F1 car.

This season McLaren are hoping for a massive leap forward up the grid having swapped Honda power for Renault engines.

This move means the focus will be firmly on McLaren’s chassis as the Renault powered proved to be a race winner with Red Bull Racing.

Speaking about the design of McLaren’s 2018 car, technical director Tim Goss says they were going for “trust” while avoiding “peaky.”

He told Autosport: “So much of producing a great F1 car these days is giving the driver a car that they can exploit.

“There is no point in giving them a car with very peaky performance.

“What we are trying to do is give the driver something that operates very well over a broad operating envelope.”

He added: “Initially we are not worried about what level of performance we are going to put on the car.

“What we wanted to do was understand the flow physics and try to get good, well-behaved aerodynamics across the range of the operating envelope of yaw/steer/roll and ride-height.

“And only when we did that and we were happy that we had well-behaved aerodynamics did we start to build the performance.

“So our approach these days is very much about giving the driver something they can trust and work with, and peaky load is in our view not the way to produce a quick aerodynamic package for the driver, or vehicle dynamics change.”

McLaren: Team-mate gap down to the car

Date published: January 23 2018

Although Fernando Alonso outscored Stoffel Vandoorne last season, Zak Brown reckons the car played a big role in that as McLaren-Honda often only had one update available.

Struggling in their final season with Honda power, Alonso and Vandoorne really only had one another as competition as the Woking was woefully off the pace.

It was, however, an interesting tussle between the team-mates with Vandoorne holding the points advantage before Alonso put in a run of three top-ten results to close out the season.

He outscored the Belgian driver 17 to 13th.

Brown, though, says that may have more do with the car than with driver talent as he insisted that McLaren were happy with Vandoorne’s performances in 2017.

The McLaren boss said: “They did not always have the same parts.

“Both cars were looked after identically, but sometimes we only had one update available.

“The gap was created by the car and not by the skills of the drivers. We are very satisfied with Stoffel’s performance.”

He added: “It was not an easy start for [Stoffel] as we had problems with the reliability of the car, he was a freshman who has been driving some circuits for the first time in his life.

“Stoffel had missed sessions on tracks he had never been to before. He only had five laps to set a good time, so of course it’s difficult if your team-mate is one of the best racers in the world.”

Vandoorne: The pressure on McLaren is big

Date published: January 21 2018

Racing the same engine as Red Bull and Renault this season, Stoffel Vandoorne says the pressure on McLaren to perform is “big.”

This season McLaren’s claims that they have one, if not the best, chassis in Formula 1 will be tested.

Swapping from Honda to Renault power, the Woking team will run the same engines as race winners Red Bull and works team Renault.

But while racing director Eric Boullier has downplayed the pressure, Vandoorne believe it will be “big.”

“In 2018 the pressure on the team is big because we have big points of comparison next to us, like Red Bull who won races last season,” the 25-year-old told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

“Renault has also done well, so the pressure is there. But it is also positive and we need it to progress.”

Although testing does not begin until February 26, Vandoorne’s pre-season preparations are already in full swing.

He headed to Woking last week where he spent time in the simulator, getting a “first feeling” for the 2018 car.

He added: “The change will be big for us, everyone is very motivated to start testing and see what it’s going to give on the track.

“In Barcelona we’ll know a little more about how the season will unfold.”

Prost: ‘Vandoorne even better than Alonso’

Date published: December 7 2017

The legendary Alain Prost has been very impressed with Stoffel Vandoorne’s development as McLaren and thinks he is operating at a higher level than Fernando Alonso.

Vandoorne had a tough start to life in Formula 1 but enjoyed a strong second half of the 2017 campaign which was highlighted by two back-to-back and career best finishes of P7.

Prost, who acts as Renault’s official advisor, thinks Vandoorne has built a strong foundation for himself and can go on to enjoy an even better in 2018 as McLaren join forces with the Enstone team.

“Everyone watched Vandoorne because, prior to coming into F1, he was recognised as one of the most exceptional youngsters for the future,” Prost told RTBF.

“He started at McLaren with reliability problems and never the same equipment as Alonso.

“But I think Vandoorne is now playing on the same level or even better than Alonso. He’s doing his development in a perfect way.

“Next year with a good engine, we’ll see if he’s efficient and reliable. Being on a team with Alonso is not easy, so Vandoorne has to stay calm, take his time, and I think there is no problem for him to be on top in years to come.”