Fernando Alonso, Zak Brown, 2018

Alonso is proof McLaren is better at managing drivers now – Brown

2018 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso’s second tenure at McLaren is an example of how the team has become better at managing its drivers, according to Zak Brown.

The McLaren Racing CEO admitted the team hasn’t always got the best out of its drivers, such as Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen, who were dropped after a single season each.

“I think Alonso’s a better example of how McLaren operates today,” Brown told media including RaceFans this week. He contrasted Alonso’s current spell at McLaren with his unhappy season at the team in 2007, which ended in acrimony.

“Obviously when Fernando was here 10 years ago that relationship didn’t work. And here we are, having a pretty poor three years, and I think you’d all say Fernando, you’ve never seen him with a smile on his face as often as he has had. That’s because we’re letting him operate in a manner in which I think he enjoys the environment and we get the most out of him.”

Brown was speaking after the announcement Lando Norris will drive for the team in the 2019 F1 season. He said the team will try to cultivate the right environment to get the best out of the 18-year old.

“I think each driver’s different. Some respond to you being very difficult to them, others respond because you need an arm around them. I try and create environment which is unique to each driver and how they operate best. Give them that environment: that’s what we’ve done with Fernando, that’s what we’ll do with Lando.

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“He’s very mature for his age in the racing environment. He’s quite relaxed, you don’t see him get nervous, I don’t see any anxiety out of him. The way I saw him do free practice on in Monza, his build-up to that was kind of no different than I’d seen in Formula Three. I think he’s got a really good temperament for Formula 1. What that tells me is I don’t think he’ll be rattled easily by adversity which no doubt he will have at some point.”

Gil de Ferran, McLaren, Silverstone, 2018
It’s De Ferran’s job to get the best out of McLaren’s drivers
Brown suggested the difficulties Charles Leclerc experienced at Sauber earlier this year were a consequence of too much pressure begin put on the newcomer.

“If you look at someone like Leclerc he was in trouble the first couple of races, maybe because expectations were too high, he made a couple of mistakes and there were stories two races into the championship that maybe he isn’t who we all thought he was. And now it looks like he’s going to Ferrari.

“So I think we have to be very careful not to set the bar of expectations so high that free practice one in Australia we’ve all come to conclusions about whether [Norris] is the next superstar or not. We need to give him some time to settle in. He’s going to tracks he hasn’t seen before like Australia. He’s going to have some shunts. And so we need to just give him space.

“It’s one of the things Gil de Ferran has been brought in for is kind of human performance of the team and drivers. I think maybe historically we’ve not been great with young drivers because of the environment that we’re in so we’re looking for Gil to make sure we learn from some of the mistakes that we’ve maybe made in the past.”

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2018 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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48 comments on “Alonso is proof McLaren is better at managing drivers now – Brown”

  1. I think what Zak actually means is “We’re letting Alonso run the show and taking us from behind. As we have absolutely zero leadership and an even thinner plan for the future”. Sadly McLaren have turned into that stray dog you see in the streets. Frantically running in circles chasing it’s own tail.

    1. Great comment.. Haha fantastic

  2. Better at managing drivers, considerably worse at building cars….

    1. Tell that to Stoffel, i had to laugh hard when i read the title.

      1. The problem is that while Brown is managing Vandoorne, Norris is managing Brown.

      2. I literally laughed when I read the title, too. Zac Brown doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.

  3. Throw the full weight of development desperately behind the talisman driver, Alonso, who inevitably quit anyway. While their own academy man suffers with a B-spec car. Then throw him under the bus in order to keep the next kid interested.

    Sounds great.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better.

    2. Well said. It’s like scoring a goal with Alonso and then an own goal against Vandoorne. It doesn’t make you a winning team.

    3. Seems everyone forgot that Stoffel had no spare parts even a broken chasis without a spare. Are they really in money problems?

      But i am in league with the poster +1

    4. Well said, and disappointingly truthful.

  4. Everything that Zak has been saying lately juts makes me laugh. He talks too much. They should do it like Ferrari did a couple of years ago and zip it until they actually have something to talk about.

    1. So when they are asked questions, they should just stare blankly and refuse to answer?

      1. This article just about makes me think so @pastaman!

      2. @pastaman @bosyber – A more tactful answer to a question like “Zak, how has McLaren’s management of their drivers changed under your leadership?” would have been on the lines of “Well, we have two excellent drivers in the form of Alonso and Vandoorne, which means the management of drivers is an easy job. The fact that the points tally doesn’t reflect their talent shows that we have to provide a capable car for them. To this effect, we’re doing …” and then segue into the usual BS about how the 2019 car will be so fast that Vettel and Hamilton will be left with just their underpants on when the McLaren blitzes past them.

        That said, I’ve felt for several weeks now that Brown’s received a “perform or perish” ultimatum from the board, which is why he’s selling himself up with answers like this.

  5. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    8th September 2018, 11:38

    What a load of waffle

    How on earth can they use Alonso as an example of “managing drivers better” when he spent last year criticising the Honda engine so much he skipped a race. And a year on he’s going to leave the sport all together. How that is good driver management I don’t know. And what about Vandoorne, was he also manged well?

    Brown has said a few rubbish things bit this takes the cake.

  6. Zak Brown gives above content. Who can believe this man, criticising his predecessors for bad management of the McL drivers.
    What happens than to Stoffel Vandoorne? I don’ believe a word from this man managing a racing team, he is an advertiser not anything more.

  7. Alonso literally has Zak Brown under the imperius curse #harrypotter .

    Everything he and McLaren say or do seems to be governed by Fernando

  8. When you let him do whatever he likes, is there really any driver management involved?

  9. I really hope that Vandoorne can pull some half results from the remaining races. Not for Mclaren but for his own good. He looks and sounds a broken man at the moment

  10. It’s not that they are better at managing anything, it’s just that there’s no tension between drivers when they don’t have anything to fight each other for. Neither driver is going to get too stressed about whether they’re going to finish 11th or 12th.

    In short, adrenaline and tensions are high, only when the stakes are high.
    I bet however there’s a lot of tension in the engineering department, as they they are all stressing about losing their jobs because of horrible results. There’s something at stake.

    1. Agree 100%. Its not better management, it’s a lack of results. When drivers of Alonso or Button calibre realise a 6th place is the best they can do, they wont fight each other. If wins and championships were at stake, it’s be much different!

  11. Giving your #2 driver an under performing car in relation to his “experienced” teammate and then firing him for not being able to beat his teammate is not called good driver management. I’m sorry.

  12. Alonso hung around because he was being paid a fortune and no better offers came along. On top of that, the car was developed for him, the whole team was focused on him and the old Ron Donnis-era McLaren driver behaviour guide has been replaced with a post-it note saying ‘do and say what you like’.

    Meanwhile, on the B-spec side of the garage, Zak Brown’s team has trashed one of the most talented drivers of his generation, seemingly so they can replace him with a good-but-not-exceptional (on the evidence I see) kid managed by… er, Zak Brown.

    For those with an interest in English football… McLaren’s management have a really strong Man Utd vibe about them these days.

    1. Another well said comment, hope other teams see how they didn’t give Vandoorne a fair shake and that he ends up in a team and flourishes. McLaren needs to clean house and it needs to start at the top.

  13. More like QPR? groan……..@Liverpool are Merc?

    1. @budchekov Manchester City are Mercedes without a doubt. Liverpool are Ferrari, living in past glories for the past few years, but now getting their act together and actually looking like capable of challenging Mercedes/Manchester City. McLaren are more like Arsenal for me, whilst Renault could be the new Tottenham Hotspurs.

  14. Keith, I think you misspelt “mangling” in the title.

    1. LOL, indeed @phylyp, that would be a more accurate description of the situation.

    2. LOL. Bullseye!

  15. Actually alonso did not have a proper team mate to verse… Mr zak. Also he put immense pressure on mclaren to abandon honda. Which in the bigger scheme of things was wrong. They should hav been realistic and given themselves afew more years to get it together. Honda will b showing good dividends soon…renault have reached their peak already.

  16. I’m not sure what Zak’s smoking but I’d like some.

    Perhaps instead of patting himself on the back, he should recognise that Mclaren is in complete disarray. That only happens one way Zak – bad management.

    Eric must be so glad to have escaped.

  17. I am sorry but they didn’t manage drivers, Alonso managed them and then quit them.

  18. Lol no.

  19. Keith how about a caption contest for that top Pic?

    1. @budchekov I’ll give it a go:

      The moment Alonso realised he would be retiring from F1 at the end of the year, as Zak explained to him his plans for Mclaren’s future at the Daytona 24h.

  20. They manage them so good, they even get one of them to drive in the duct-tape car. Well done Zak, you destroyed a career.

  21. To quote Fernando… ‘Ah ha hahaha…’

    1. More like,
      “From now until I leave, no more radio”

  22. What a laughing sideshow they have become…..sigh

  23. Not a bad idea – using stand-up comedian to raise money for car development.

  24. All these silly comments from so-called fans claiming ‘ the car was built around Alonso’ and ‘Alonso runs the team’ ‘Alonso got rid of Honda’
    and not a single one of things has as bigger impact on the sport for us fans as Hamilton and Vettel vetoeing Daniel Riccairdo.
    Or Ferrari and Mercedes stabbing Michael Schumacher in the back.
    Alonso hasn’t robbed us of anything. Keep kicking him whilst he’s down though

    1. Hamilton and Vettel vetoeing Daniel Riccairdo

      Of course you have some solid proof of that, don’t ya? Or maybe Ferrari and Mercedes decided that Dan isn’t worth 70 million he was asking for 2 year contract?

  25. Everything around ALO and McL sucks.
    None of them have had just about one thing right for years. Being so arrogant ousting Honda says it all.
    Having Vandorne to run a reapaired chassis, just tells us they didnt have any plan o retain Vandorne, Abiteboul did the same with Mag, having MAG to run 2. part of season with Pal´s damaged and old spec chassis, thinking he could get any driver he would prefer in 2016, lol.
    Vandorne was not even the preferred from the beginning, only when MAG said no more reservedriver he got ousted putting Vandone in the reserve seat. Sorry for the guy, being in such a team, where all the good, if any, parts got on AO car, and just like Renault, they can maximum run one car in working order.

  26. How much gold are Mcl going to throw on street? VAN was doing more than excellent before ending his career at Mcl.
    PER has done excellent in Fi – keeping his seat in front of OCO.
    MAG is having his best season ever in Haas.
    Why can they all do a great job in other teams… Maybe the problem is inside the Mcl team… Biggest problem right now is ALO – he made the team rotten..they dumped MAG for that id!ot – since then he has doing nothing but selling the team on the radio… Getting the best part and having the chassis made for his drivingstyle.. Wonder why BUT left… VAN never got a chance…

  27. I am catching up on my reading so I am late in commenting on this article.

    I have never been convinced that Zak Brown is the person who can turn McLaren into a competitive team again and when he says stuff like this it just reinforces my view.

    The main time teams have problems with their drivers is when they are both competing at the sharp end for victories and championships, if a team is competing in the midfield or lower down then that aspect is removed from the situation and it is much easier to manage the drivers, Hamilton and Rosberg were friends until it was going to be one of them who would be champion in 2014 and they were fighting each other for the title.

    Also if the drivers are not at the same level then they will not be challenging each other and again this removes another potential source of conflict within the team, if Perez and Ocon weren’t relatively evenly matched they wouldn’t have been near each in the races in the past couple of years and wouldn’t have had the incidents they have had with each other.

    Button provided more competition for Alonso than Vandoorne did but the teammate situation has not been one which should have produced problems for Alonso during his second stint at McLaren anyway. The problem has been the competiveness, or lack thereof, of the car and Alonso has not been quiet about that.

    From the outside it looks like McLaren have been so desperate to keep Alonso that they have allowed him to do whatever he wants, such as missing a Grand Prix and driving in other series, I wouldn’t be surprised if trying to keep Alonso happy played a role in McLaren parting ways with Honda, a move which has been proven to have already hurt the team financially and I think could prove to also be a mistake on the track, and after all that he is leaving at the end of the year anyway.

    As for managing young talent, remind me what is happening with Vandoorne, you can’t say that he is an example of McLaren doing a better job than they did with Perez of Magnussen even if he has lasted at the team longer.

    Vandoorne has been hamstrung by the current situation at McLaren, going through one of the worse periods in their history, having a poor car while having to go up against one the best drivers around in Alonso.

    It is no surprise he has struggled, I still believe that that if Vandoorne has another chance at the right team that he could still prove he has what it takes to be a F1 driver.

    McLaren are in a mess and Zak Brown may have only been responding to a journalists questions and I know people in his position will publically always try to look for the positives and do PR speak, but rather than try to claim that what is happening with their drivers shows that the team has improved in one area he should have said something else or just kept quiet, how does the saying go, “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”.

    If he really believes what he has said then McLaren are in even more trouble than I thought they were.

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