Fernando Alonso’s reputation for being difficult to work with could not be farther from the truth, says McLaren boss Zak Brown.
A relationship that bore little fruit on-track, Brown presided over Alonso’s 2017 and ’18 Formula 1 campaigns with McLaren, as well as his attempts at the Indy 500 in 2017, ’19 and ’20.
And yet while Alonso was outspoken in the shortcomings of the team – particularly the Honda engine used from 2015-18 – Brown says that they retained a strong rapport off-track.
“I thoroughly enjoyed racing with him,” he told Peter Windsor. “We have an outstanding relationship. We’ve had a lot more bad times together on the race track than good, unfortunately, and he’s got a reputation that I never really saw.
“Everyone kind of said he would be difficult to manage and I found him quite easy to work with.”
As to why Brown was able to keep such a positive relationship amid the constant disappointment, the American suggested his ability to relate to Alonso as a fellow driver was instrumental.
“Having once driven, I don’t know if it’s because I have a bit of a driver mindset that I work with drivers a bit differently, but given we had three horrific years together we never had any incidents,” he explained.
“He gave it all he’d got every single lap, every single weekend, whether that was for seventh place or 17th place.
“He’s a total pro. Going to Indianapolis in 2017 was awesome. I think we shocked the world with that decision, and he led 27 laps, so that was a high moment.
“It ended in tears of course, with an engine that let go. Then 2019 was a disaster at Indy and he was a total pro.
“I let him go do Le Mans, which he won, we did Daytona together, so I have an outstanding relationship with him and a tremendous amount of respect.”
Returning to F1 in 2021 after a two-year hiatus, Alonso will be joining the Renault team (set to be rebranded as Alpine) with which he won his two driver’s championships in 2005 and ’06, and Brown says the 39-year-old will still be a force to be reckoned with.
“His work ethic and intelligence is second to none and I think at Renault he will be a fierce competitor,” he said.
“He’s probably the best all-round driver certainly that I’ve worked with in my short time in Formula 1 and I think the speed will definitely be there, so he’s a guy that will be tough to beat on the track.”