Despite a largely quiet week for the sport’s heavy-hitters, the F1 news-wheel managed to keep turning courtesy of Zak Brown, Helmut Marko, and the BRDC, among others.
McLaren News and Not-News: In what was a fairly eventful seven days for the Woking outfit, McLaren was both creating the news with their announcements for 2020, but also on the receiving end in having to fend-off reports of a divorce with Fernando Alonso.
Reported by both Motorsport Magazine and the American Associated Press, Alonso’s exit was understandably taken at face-value by most onlookers, and yet, turned out to actually be untrue – at least according to Zak Brown. For now, I suppose we have to take Brown at his word, but I think it’s fair to remain sceptical until we actually see Alonso in McLaren orange again, and he’s certainly got every reason to leave after the debacle at Indy.
On the other hand, the team announcing both Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz could not be better news. Possessing two young drivers that have been equally impressive in 2019 – and yes, 24-year-old Sainz still counts as ‘young’ – it was only logical to bring them back, and ideally for many years to come. Obviously there’s a long way to go with their car, but with the exception of Vettel and Leclerc at Ferrari, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find two current teammates who could offer a more entertaining championship fight.
Also, with Andreas Seidl intimating the team will soon shift focus entirely to the 2020 car, it will be interesting to see how they finish the 2019 season. Sitting fourth – 20 points ahead of Renault – in the constructor’s championship, McLaren has been ‘best of the rest’ so far this season, but they’re certainly not that far ahead performance-wise or mathematically to be assured they’ll stay that way. Then again, maybe the difference in P4 and P5 prizemoney isn’t enough to concern them, or they think Renault will adopt a similar strategy, but in any case, it would be quite a shame for them to give up the fight – the way things are going at the top, this season needs all the intrigue it can get.
Marko Lays Out Gasly Ultimatum: Suffice to say, Pierre Gasly’s debut season with Red Bull has been a rough one, and after months of speculation, we now have it from Helmut Marko himself: the Frenchman “has to improve” by the summer break – the implication being if he doesn’t, he’ll risk facing the axe. For me that seems like a fair ultimatum – he’s got three races to respond to the criticism he’s heaped on himself, and while Red Bull have promised to support him “as much as possible”, they’ve also left the door open for a driver swap, with a solid nine races to evaluate another “number two” who can help their anticipated championship push next year.
Silverstone Here to Stay: It might have been the most drawn-out contract negotiation in F1 history, but finally, a new deal has been struck to ensure Silverstone stays on the calendar until 2024 at least. Whatever way you could’ve looked at it: historical significance, quality of racing, fan attendance, logistics, or marketing, keeping Silverstone was a no-brainer, and while it shouldn’t have taken this long, at least it’s done. Now the interesting thing will be to see after years of crying poor, if the BRDC can turn a profit – and if they can’t, they certainly can’t point the finger at Bernie.
Williams to swap Mercedes for Renault?: What’s that they said about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Williams has a lot of problems, their engine supply is not one of them.