Fernando Alonso: Mercedes stronger than ever in Formula 1

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McLaren’s Fernando Alonso believes that Mercedes’ advantage over the rest of the Formula 1 field may be greater than ever heading into the 2016 season.

Mercedes enjoyed a successful first pre-season test in Barcelona this week, completing more laps than any other team and suffering zero stoppages on-track or apparent issues with the new car.

Although the one-lap pace of the W07 is yet to truly be displayed, most are anticipating Mercedes to be clear of the rest of the pack once again at the first race of the year in Australia next month.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Alonso said that he believes Mercedes may be stronger now that it ever has been, even off the back of two world championship successes.

“I think the Mercedes domination has not finished. I think they are very, very strong,” Alonso said.

“They are doing some interesting things now in testing. That amount of laps means that you have very clear things.

“So when they put the potential as well, they are stronger than ever probably, even more than the last two years.”

Alonso endured a difficult 2015 campaign with McLaren as issues with the Honda power unit limited the Spaniard to just two points finishes.

Although he is not setting any firm expectations for the season ahead, he does believe that McLaren could have the strongest chassis on the grid by the beginning of the European season in May.

“I’m very proud of the team, of what we achieved in the past couple of months,” Alonso said.

“I think the target to have the best car, the best chassis is reachable, is something very possible, maybe by the European races or something like that.

“Motivation is very high, so who knows. There is not a magic solution or a crystal ball, but I would like to be competitive and to be fighting for something important. But honestly I don’t know.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”