Fernando Alonso has laid his cards on the table in terms of his long-term career plan which is to win the Triple Crown. To achieve that, he will have to enter the Indy 500 as a once-a-year commitment, or leave Formula One altogether and take part in the IndyCar championship full-time. It is not a straightforward decision. IndyCar racing is dangerous, but does Alonso want to continue in a McLaren, which as we saw in France, is toddling around at the back of the field? Should he leave F1, however, the financial rewards are not going to be the same, but his workload and risk would be similar. And Formula One is Formula One. There is no other championship quite like it.
Alonso may be 37 next month, but he is still a young man, and has had a lot of success. His legacy isn’t being tainted because he has a strong reputation and a reminder of that was when he went to Le Mans and won . His speed is undiminished, but if his chapter in F1 comes to an end he will be remembered as someone who could have won more than his two championships for Renault, but that is a product of the decisions he has made. The sport isn’t just about personal talent, but the skill of being in the right car at the right time.
If McLaren’s troubles continue – and Alonso was only 19th in practice on Friday – then they will surely turn their attentions to next year’s car. Alonso is part of that jigsaw, but more importantly for McLaren is designing a fast racing car. You can have Alonso in your car all day long, but if you don't come up with a good machine then it is not going to make the difference. McLaren shoud be qualifying inside the top 10 and finishing on the podium, but they haven’t been in that position for a long time.
Eric Boullier, the team’s racing director, is under pressure, but he doesn't design the car. He doesn't build the car. He doesn't drive the car. People always look to senior management as being responsible for pulling the team together but McLaren’s issues are bigger than one individual.
In France last weekend, the spotlight was on internal infighting and part of that was stimulated by comments from McLaren’s former team principal Martin Whitmarsh. Among other points, Whitmarsh said he was “desperately sad” to see his old team’s demise, and called for “a big change of approach”. But what was the stimulus for him to make those comments given his previous relationship with the team and the owners? Was it just a passionate plea from a former McLaren employee? Or was it part of a wider strategy to destabilise McLaren from the people who are no longer there? I don't have a crystal ball, but we may get more answers later in the year. In my own experience, people only speak out if it is part of a strategy.
For three seasons, McLaren had a Honda engine that was significantly undercooked and it sent them into a spiral. Once you are not going as quickly as you once were you lose your reference. This car has not delivered for years, but I have to believe that in their case, unlike Williams’s, that they have the potential to return to winning ways.
McLaren have incredible facilities and if you are trying to attract the best designers and the best engineers they are still a seductive proposition. I want McLaren to be successful because it makes F1 more competitive so I am not putting the final nail in their coffin. But it is a difficult time, and their ability to come back will be down to leadership and the desire of those involved. It is not the name above the door that gets you success, but the people within.
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Fernando Alonso and McLaren, two of F1's giants, are now at a crossroads have 891 words, post on www.telegraph.co.uk at June 29, 2018. This is cached page on Auto News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.