Feature: Alonso, McLaren hungrier than ever

Feature: Alonso, McLaren hungrier than ever

2 November 2017 – Fernando Alonso and McLaren will stick together in 2018, both parties pushing for a return to winning ways. After their recent struggles, the hunger to succeed is greater than ever, as GPUpdate.net hears.

It has been over three years since Alonso stood on a podium, and four since he won a race, having rejoined McLaren ahead of its disastrous second spell with Honda.

McLaren, meanwhile, last triumphed in 2012, at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, a drought that will hit 1813 days when it lines up on the grid at Interlagos next weekend.

But there is growing optimism that Alonso and McLaren could be back in contention in 2018, with Honda ditched for a race-winning manufacturer in Renault, an exciting driver line-up retained and a hard working group of engineers/mechanics desperate to showcase their talents.

"I'm extremely proud and happy to be part of this project for next year," says Alonso, discussing his renewal during the United States/Mexico back-to-back sequence.

"We want to succeed in Formula 1 and I think that together with McLaren I share many, many values of the team – we don't accept second place, we don't accept fighting for Q2.

"I've tried to do everything that I can to change those situations, and I saw the team make whatever changes they needed to make to change that situation, after these three difficult seasons.

"I'm motivated, more than ever, and I'm happy to start working for 2018.

"I think from difficult times you learn much more than from easy times, so if we are competitive, hopefully next year, I think we are ready and we are stronger than we were three years ago."

Zak Brown, who arrived at Woking over the winter, hailed Alonso as a fundamental part of the McLaren package moving forward, a "racing monster" who will continue to head the team's charge, alongside the talented and growing Stoffel Vandoorne, 11 years his junior.

"It's very, very important for McLaren's future," Brown says of keeping Alonso onboard.

"Obviously the last few years have been a big challenge, and what we want is the best team and the best drivers in the world that you can get.

"We've had a lot of changes, a big change [to Renault] that we announced not too long ago.

"We've re-signed Stoffel, and as we made very well known, we very much wanted to keep Fernando a part of the McLaren family, and we've accomplished that.

"It would have been a big blow not to have Fernando with the team."

Alonso contemplated his future throughout the summer, via a frontrunning performance at the Indianapolis 500, admitting that he considered moving to other categories, and spoke to race-winning Formula 1 rivals, before settling on McLaren, and Renault power.

"After Indianapolis, when I came back to Formula 1, I had doubts if I could continue in Formula 1, or if I would look at different series," he comments.

"In the August break I had a few conversations with some teams, just to know their projects and situations, some of them are winning teams this year, so there were some conversations.

"But something inside always told me to stay at McLaren…

"I think we have this year proved that the chassis was capable of fighting at the front, and I think the organisation now is much more logical in the way of winning in the short-term.

"After the summer break, maybe around Spa, Monza, I was ready to make an extension of the contract, but at that time the team was not ready, they were in a changeable situation with the power unit.

"When they decided to change for Renault, I made sure with the Renault people, who I have a very strong relationship with, what is the situation with the power unit for next year, making sure that there was nothing crazy going on, and Red Bull's results in the last couple of races gave us extra motivation.

"They were not very serious, but there were some [other options]."

Brown is aware of the task ahead, with McLaren having to adapt to a new power unit in a short space of time, but reckons all of the ingredients are now in place to fight up front once more, and think about challenging for a first title since 2008.

"We have the drivers we want, we've got a very good power unit, we've got a great team and we've been given the resources we need to have a competitive race car," he states.

"Next year is critically important to show that we are a frontrunning team that so many people know we are."

And Alonso, looking to add to the pair of titles he achieved with Renault in 2005 and 2006, now appears to believe, rather than simply hope, that an elusive third crown is possible.

"That's why I stay," he says with a steely determination.

"After Indianapolis, I was thinking what is the best option for next year, because I don't like too much being out of Q3, I don't like too much being off the podium.

"I thought if that would be the case next year, then maybe it's better to look outside Formula 1, to experience again the podiums, those victory tastes.

"But we did a lot of progress this year, I've been to the factory a lot, I know what is in the plan for next year, I know what Renault is preparing for next year.

"I'm here because I believe that I can be in those podium celebrations and in those moments."

If a return to the podium, and potentially more, can be realised in 2018, the champagne will surely taste sweeter than it ever has to Alonso and McLaren.

Written by: Mike Seymour

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