Getty Images

Alonso confident McLaren will return to Le Mans in the future

1 Comment

Fernando Alonso is impressed by new McLaren boss Zak Brown’s more open approach to racing in other categories, and is confident that the British marque will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future.

Following the end of Ron Dennis’ 35-year reign of McLaren, Brown officially became executive director of the company in December last year.

The American businessman has already made widespread changes to the company, the most significant being the decision to allow Alonso to enter the Indianapolis 500 later this month and skip the Monaco Grand Prix.

When asked about the difference in approach between Brown and Dennis, Alonso said that McLaren’s new chief has a more open approach that is felt throughout the team.

“I think they are very different and I think there is a not a magic solution, or a magic way to lead a team to success,” Alonso said.

“Ron had a fantastic time in the past in McLaren with a lot of success, and now with Zak things are a little bit more open, inside the team but also for you guys, outside, how you can approach McLaren now is different, on the commercial side, also in a technical side.”

Alonso also praised Brown’s vision for McLaren in categories beyond F1, stating his belief that the team will feature more in the Indy 500 in the future and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans one day.

“I think also with Zak the biggest difference is the vision and the approach for the brand, for McLaren, which is a little bit different and wants to span the McLaren in different worlds and different categories,” Alonso said.

“We’ll see with the Indy 500, I think it is not only this year. I think McLaren will be in the Indy 500 for the future. I think McLaren will be in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future, as they were in the past, when they won the Indy 500, when they won Le Mans.

“So that’s the biggest change we can feel inside McLaren, that Zak will not only concentrate in Formula 1, will concentrate in McLaren as a race team in different series.

“And the most important thing is obviously to sell cars and to sell the McLaren cars you need to open to new markets and especially the US market is probably the biggest one.”

McLaren famously won Le Mans back in 1995 with its F1 GTR car, but has not featured at the Circuit de la Sarthe since 1998.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.