Well ,to say I’ve been putting this one off like a visit to the proctologist would be an understatement. What a sad state of affairs this is and not just for the team but also of course for Alonso, who has been losing the game of musical chairs in F1 for a while.
What a supreme talent he is and has been so consistently for so many years now, we do hear grumblings from inside teams that he may not be everyone’s cup of tea but there is no doubt behind the wheel, no one can question his ability and whatever happens behind the scenes he never lets it effect his pace or focus on the track .
For me, even when the car is not quite up for the job he has never lost that drive to beat the next car in front and fight off the next car behind whether it’s for a win or for 10th place. It is very difficult for a driver to keep up this type of spirit especially when you have reached the heights he has (just ask Rosberg), so I tip my hat to him for that.
At this point, after seeing the troubles in pre-season testing for McLaren, it is hard to imagine he will continue on in 2018 but where will he go? Who knows, but if the game truly is afoot with Ferrari & Red Bull, Merc may just need another World Champ at the team to fight them off.
Ok so enough about 2018 what about 2017 you say? Well I think for Alonso the good thing will be that even though his car may be a little wanting in pace, the new rules, which appear to allow for a more constant attacking style and the threshold of pace to be so much higher his skill level should allow for him to make a difference over a race distance. We saw it last year that, when given the green light to attack (or when he ignored the teams calls to not!) he could really turn it on.
If I was Alonso, I would be in full attack mode all race long as the car may not last and ultimately not capable of top results, but he must make sure no one forgets who and what he is capable of. Just like a new driver coming into the series, the ability to shine above a cars capability never goes unnoticed and although you may not think he could be forgotten, it is so easy for even the most astute racing personnel to not take a poor cars performance to cloud ones judgment on a driver.
Fernando will not be building a championship run here in 2017 so he must concentrate on each race as it comes, take some risks on track, in strategy, tyre selection and car set up. He does of course have a very handy driver as a teammate so he needs to keep his eye on him.
So for Fernando’s sake lets hope they can pull back some pace from all the disastrous testing calamities and have a car that can fight nearer the front, I love watching him drive and I don’t want to miss it!
Stoffel is a quiet but much heralded driver talent and he showed that in his debut one-off drive last year but I have not really been able to figure out his personality yet. Just from first impressions, he seems a Kimi-type who has a lot of pace but doesn’t bring a lot of drama.
This demeanor could be an asset or a hindrance in the mind games that go on within a team. It can work for or against you depending on who your teammate is, to be easy going can mean you get run over by a freight train but some drivers are strong enough in the car to they let results and lap time speak for them. When he was able to fly in late and score the first points for the team in 2016 he certainly earned the right to be respected and for his first year in F1 that is a very good place to begin.
Having Fernando as your teammate could be seen as a dangerous benchmark to be compared to, but I think Stoffel is in an ideal situation (not car wise of course) in that even if he simply stays in the same territory as Alonso, he will come out as a driver with a lot of potential and it would do his stock no harm at all.
Of course if he can beat Alonso on occasion that will certainly help him even more, and honestly from what I saw in the F1 car and his championship in GP2 I believe this will happen. He is set to be in McLaren for a while and he has time to grow with the team as they sort out their technical issues. They will be back and it should coincide with him having the knowledge and experience to be at the top of his game so the potential is there.
This year will be tough so he needs to be supportive of the team and do all he can to guide the engineering to his benefit as if he does become the team leader in the near future he needs them to be trustful and supportive of his leadership.