As McLaren embarks on improving its fortunes, its future driver line-up will be a major component of its advance process, which is why experience will likely supersede youth for 2019 says Zak Brown.
Formula 1’s frantic game of musical chairs was ignited by the announcement of Daniel Ricciardo’s unexpected move to Renault for next season, opening up unforeseen opportunities for teams as well as for experienced and aspiring champions.
For McLaren, it’s a fluid situation however and one that takes its cue from Fernando Alonso’s prospects for 2019.
On the other side of the garage, Stoffel Vandoorne hasn’t lived up to the team’s expectations, the Belgian’s future appearing more uncertain with each passing race, while highly-rated McLaren junior Lando Norris waits in the wings.
The Woking-based outfit has multiple choices, and has added Carlos Sainz to its list, but regardless of who gets a seat when the music stops, McLaren CEO Zak Brown insists experience will be a major ingredient of its 2019 line-up.
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“In situations like this you need to keep every door and every avenue open and wait for some dominoes to fall,” says Brown. “Sometimes it’s in your control, sometimes it’s not.
“We know our situation with Stoffel. We’re seeing what other opportunities may or may not be available, seeing ultimately what Fernando wants to do.
“It’s also about the package – experience and youth – especially in the situation we’re in.
“Because we’re rebuilding, to have two young drivers in our car wouldn’t be a great place to be.
“If we had a better racecar then you might take a risk with two younger drivers because you’ve given them good racecars.”
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Brown has already indicated that Sainz is a person of interest for McLaren, and so could also be Esteban Ocon if push comes to shove at Force India between the Frenchman and Sergio Perez following the team’s buy-out by Lawrence Stroll, and therefore the likely arrival of his son Lance.
“The reality is we have two open seats, and it’s our job to get the best driver situation possible and that requires talking to other drivers up and down pitlane,” said Brown.
And talking also to its incumbents, and more specifically Vandoorne.
“Every racing driver knows that they need to perform at the highest level because teams are always looking for the best solution at that moment,” adds Brown.
“We’re very much behind Stoffel. It’s one of the main reasons why Gil joined us, to help with the driver situation.
“I feel very comfortable with giving him all the support we possibly can while we’re in the Formula 1 silly season and of course having a look around at what the various opportunities are.”
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