Zak Brown has acknowledged that McLaren have not been great at nurturing and developing young talent despite having had some handy drivers pass through the doors at Woking, but now they have highlighted the problem and are working to put this right.
It is no secret that Gil de Ferran, two times Indycar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, has been a regular presence in the McLaren garage this season, amid reports that the team are contemplating an Indycar foray sometime in the future.
In an interview with the Formula 1 website, Brown revealed that the 50-year-old Brazilian, who coached Fernando Alonso during his Indy 500 debut last your, is also helping on the driver front, “He’s a special advisor. We brought him in, and he reports to me.”
“He’s helping with our young drivers, notably with Stoffel [Vandoorne] and Lando [Norris]. We’re not sure yet why we’ve not been great with young drivers, other than Lewis [Hamilton]. Has it been the drivers or has it been us? Heikki Kovalainen, Kevin Magnussen, Sergio Perez…”
“And if we do IndyCar, he knows that place inside out,” added Brown who attended this weekend’s Dual in Detroit with de Ferran.
“He’s a racer, through and through,” explained Brown. “It’s good to have another racing mind in the garage because we’re not getting enough right. We should be doing better than we are.”
“So he’s having a look around, you know, because I’m a big fan of racers. There’s a blend, isn’t there, between engineers, scientists, what I call book-smart people, and the racers, the street-smart guys.”
“It’s an instinct, isn’t it? We’ve got tonnes of racers here at McLaren, but when you’re not getting something as right as you should be, you want some third party to go: How about this, have you thought about that? Because sometimes the solution’s right in front of you but you can’t see it,” mused Brown.
A case in point is the situation Vandoorne, a driver with exceptional talent and success in the junior categories and arrived in Formula 1 with great expectations.
Despite an impressive debut finishing tenth in his debut at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix where he substituted for Alonso. In 2017 the Belgian was promoted to partner the veteran Spaniard and has lived in his shadow ever since, while incapable of matching the double world champion let alone beat him on a consistent basis.
Invariably rumours of Vandoorne’s demise are floating in the paddock, some even suggesting he could be replaced by Norris before this season is out.
Big Questions: Why do promising young drivers fail at McLaren?