Inside Line: Why are McLaren considering Alonso for testing?

Fernando Alonso is a great racing driver, we trumpeted his massiveness at the Daytona 24 Hours last month… but now with Formula 1 testing approaching fast, I must don my McLaren fan for life cap and ask some questions of the team I have supported since Ron Dennis was handed the keys all those years ago.

The great Spaniard who was always jinxed at Woking, and vice versa, was handed a dog of a car for the past four years and to his credit he drove it like no other, rolled up his sleeves and went to war every time he stepped in the lame donkeys he was handed to go take on the stallions.

However, as a good a race driver that he is, how good is he at developing a car? Evolving it? As Michael Schumacher did with Benetton and Ferrari or Lewis Hamilton did with McLaren and is now doing with Mercedes.

Their regular input galvanised engineers into constantly evolving their cars to their specific needs and preferences, thus making the cars they drove better and better for them.

Is Fernando capable of that?

The MCL33 was horrible from day one and never got better, for whatever reason, but coincidentally or not Fernando as number one driver would have been expected to improve the car as the season progressed, however, it remained a brick.

Ditto his final year at Ferrari, a below par car remained that way until he walked out the door of Maranello at the end of 2014.

McLaren team chief Zak Brown has more than once said that a revolution is taking place at Woking, the team is changing on all fronts, with a blank piece of paper they are redrawing the road map to make them a winning force once again.

In new lads Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, they have two young drivers eager to prove themselves with massive futures ahead of them if all goes to plan. But right now they have a great deal to learn.

Both are going to need unhindered ‘love and attention’ from their team, the last thing they need is Fernando ‘visiting’ to disrupt things with his input or mere box-office presence.

Carlos and Lando need every second available to them inside the MCL34 and pounding laps. There are a total of 64 hours of testing weather permitting, thus in ideal conditions, the two drivers area afforded 32 hours in the cockpit.

We all know this is pitiful mileage but it is what it is, but add a third driver and you are ‘stealing’ valuable track time from the guys who need it most, the blokes the team are relying on to do the job all year.

From where I sit, Fernando is the thorn in the side of McLaren and has been since he returned to the shitbox they gave him to drive.

But he stuck in there because the bucks were good and no one else wanted him, while McLaren under Zak appear to ‘need’ him more than he needs them.

Since Fernando’s quit announcement, he has been ‘walking’ away from F1 kicking and screaming, not dignified for the man of Samurai principles. That he would even countenance a return to test amplifies his desperation to remain relevant to the top flight.

If he does get called up to test the MCL34, the question is obvious: Will Fernando deliver meaningful info to Lando and Carlos, or will it be another exercise in his self-aggrandisation?

I would hope it is not the latter but we know how Fernando operates (ask Stoffel), furthermore with limited testing, so much work to do and so little track time can McLaren afford to be frivolous?

Management should realise the distraction this will be, they really need to rally the troops to focus 100% on their two youngsters who are claimed to be the future of the team and let’s face it neither of them will be happy to sacrifice precious seat time, but will never admit it publically for patently obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, Fernando has his own projects happening, none less than his second Indianapolis 500 with McLaren and that’s the workshop he should be hanging out in, not in the F1 shop where there is no longer a seat for him.

If the Spaniard really, from the heart, wants to help, then let him compare cars in the simulator, just keep him away from the McLaren F1 garage at all costs. Don’t let him drive the MCL34, simply for the sake of Lando and Carlos.

Zak has some tough (but very obvious) decisions to make regarding his team’s testing programme and how he decides will determine whether the team chief is indeed the racer he claims to be or a Fernando fanboy.

Alonso: Remember me as a fighter who never gives up