Fernando Alonso made his first appearance as McLaren ambassador when he visited Circuit de Catalunya to catch up on Formula 1 preseason testing and while there spoke to Spanish media about the season ahead, for the team he departed last year.
The Spaniard’s popularity was evident when he arrived in the paddock and was mobbed by reporters and fans, he ran the gauntlet of questions, signatures and selfies on more than one occasion on the day.
Reporting on progress at McLaren, the double F1 World Champion said, “We are learning a lot, even last week I was in contact with the team, I am aware of the reports and all the little problems we found. I think that this week a clear picture of the car, there are a couple of areas that need to be reviewed.”
“They should continue to develop to improve performance, in some other areas it is surprisingly good, so they are happy with the results and, in general, I think it has been two very positive weeks. It is not perfect yet, but they’re heading in the right direction.”
This year McLaren has an all-new driver line-up with the teams ‘homebred’ rookie Lando Norris stepping up to the top flight, with Spaniard Carlos Sainz replacing his fellow countryman and mentor Alonso.
The driver combo has remarkable similarities to Alonso’s first tenure when he was teamed up with Woking bred Lewis Hamilton in 2007, also an all-new driver pairing in the team for that season. And we know how that turned out…
Norris is the young gun stepping up to partner, and take on, the more experienced Sainz, although far from the double F1 World Champion was at the time. Nevertheless, the contest between the two will be intriguing.
Like McLaren, Alonso believes in the new pairing, “I think it’s a good combination of drivers and a good option for the team too, because a lot of the team is new and young, and they come from different teams.”
“Carlos has more experience than Lando, Norris has a natural talent that needs to be refined. Both are well prepared and it is key that they are well understood by the engineers.”
“Sometimes drivers speak a different language than to, sometimes they see data suggesting changes that drivers are not asking for, helping in that facet is perhaps the most important input that I can have, since both are new to the team.”
McLaren team chief, and Alonso’s number one fan, Zak Brown has suggested that their recently appointed ambassador might well test the MCL34 at some point in the season, in conjunction with his Indy 500 campaign and commitment to Toyota Gazoo Racing in his quest for the World Endurance Championship (WEC) title.
The Spaniard, who won the Daytona 24 Hours in January, will next race at the 1,000 miles of Sebring (WEC) on 15 March, while the 2019 F1 season kicks off two days later with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – he won’t be there for the first time since 2001…
McLaren: Alonso will drive at selected tests to help development