Amid big changes going down at Woking, McLaren boss Zak Brown insists that Fernando Alonso is not calling the shots at the once mighty team while explaining how Gil de Ferran fits into the racing organisation’s new structure.
It has been as a torrid and dramatic week for McLaren: crippled by an uncompetitive car, dissent in the ranks, a spate of senior staff resignations – the crisis at their MTC headquarters is now in full swing.
As the once mighty team slowly crumbles, many believe the highly political Alonso is the one who is calling the shots within the team.
At Silverstone, Brown was asked if Alonso was indeed calling the shots, to which the McLaren chief replied, “He’s got a huge amount of experience, so you know when I go around and consult the racing team – whether it’s the engineers or the designers or the mechanics the drivers – I’m kind of picking their brain for their experience, they know what success looks like.”
“Fernando has been in the sport a very long time, he’s been with multiple teams, so he’s seen success, he’s seen failure, so I talk to him just like I do anyone else in the racing team to get their views on things, I take those on board and then ultimately make decisions.”
“So, you know, he’s a very important employee like the seven or eight hundred men and women we have at McLaren,” added Brown.
Meanwhile, Alonso’s long-time race engineer and personal friend Andrea Stella is now in charge of performance for the team, while Gil de Ferran has been hired to oversee the sporting side of the outfit after a year or so as a consultant.
The Brazilian, a two times Indycar (CART at the time) champion, and Alonso hit it off during last year’s Indy 500 adventure.
Now talk in the paddock is that De Ferran was brought on board at the behest of the Spaniard, but Brown insists, “Fernando only met Gil for the first time last year at Indianapolis so he didn’t have a relationship there. I’ve actually known Gill for about 10-15 years, back from the IndyCar days.”
“So I brought him in for the IndyCar experience which went really well and then felt he could contribute to our Formula 1 team in a similar manner.”
“That wasn’t something that I needed to talk to Fernando about. I knew he had a good experience with Gil, but Gil is also helping out Stoffel quite a bit… so that was our decision,” added Brown.
Alonso, a highly public critic of Honda during the McLaren’s most recent partnership, was instrumental in convincing the team to ditch the lucrative works deal they had with the Japanese auto manufacturing giant and instead opted for Renault customer engines.
Targets were lofty at the start of the season, victories predicted and expected, after all the MCL31 (according to McLaren themselves!) was the best chassis on the grid, according to them Honda were to blame for the failings etcetera. The auto-generated, hyped up misinformation has since been dispelled.
This year, Renault did not provide the team with that elusive ‘magic button’ to put them in Red Bull striking range – their preseason target – instead midpack mediocrity continues to be their plight, and is likely to be so for at least the next “two to ten seasons” if Brown’s latest round of predictions come true.
Big Question: Who is really calling the shots at McLaren?