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Alonso and McLaren

McLaren have had a pretty poor year, not winning a single race as yet with only one to go. Their car has not been as competitive as we have come to expect and, to add to their woes, they have suffered from reliability problems and accidents, often at the moments they seemed most likely to grab a win. It has been enough to make anyone wonder about the wisdom of Alonso’s decision to drive for them in 2007.

Fernando

Get used to it!

What we should remember, however, is that McLaren have a habit of bouncing back. If their car is not as good as intended one year, you can bet that the next one will be something special. With Mercedes determined not to be embarrassed by their compatriots, BMW, there can be no doubt that the folks at Woking are slaving away at plans for next season. Alonso is likely to be the beneficiary of all the hard work, design genius and money that McLaren will expend this winter.

So Alonso’s decision may not be as rash as appears at first sight. This is even more so when one considers the problems of the most likely opposition. Renault will have a driver line-up that is less than perfect; although I expect Fisichella to rise to the occasion as lead driver, I still have my doubts that he is capable of being a consistent winner. If nothing else, his bad luck should prevent that. And Kovalainen may be a bright prospect but has yet to prove himself in the heat of a Formula 1 race.

Everyone expects that Kimi Raikkonen will walk away with the championship, once he has the speed and reliability of the Ferrari to back his aspirations. I am not so sure. He will be joining a team that has come to respect and support their number two driver, Felipe Massa, and the Finn may find it difficult to carve a space for himself within their affections. Too often in the past we have seen what happens to a driver who fails to gain the wholehearted backing of the Ferrari team. Kimi has the speed to succeed but I wonder if he has the ability to make a team his own in Schumacher fashion.

So Alonso’s prospects for next year are considerably brighter than we might think. He has already demonstrated the driving skills and luck necessary to become World Champion and he will be riding the crest of McLaren’s determination to have a better year than this one. Add to that Ron Dennis’ excellent organizational and team management skills and you have a potential winner.

What it all means is that 2007 is shaping up to be one of the most closely-fought seasons for many a long year. As the last race of this season approaches, we may think we have witnessed a battle of the giants but we should remember that only two drivers have been in with a chance. Next year it is likely that there will be many more than that squabbling over the spoils. And that can only be good for the sport and the fans.

My bet for next year? Oh, I love outsiders so I’ll stick my neck out really far and say Jenson Button!

3 Responses to “Alonso and McLaren”

  1. [...] What it all means, however, is that McLaren are suddenly looking a lot stronger, just as suggested in my post, Alonso and McLaren, back in October. If the MP4-22 is as good as Ron expects, Alonso is going to make me look silly with my prediction that Jenson Button will be World Champion in 2007… [...]

  2. [...] Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s feted designer, is of the opinion that McLaren will return to form this year after failing to win a race in 2006. I would agree, particularly as Newey makes many of the points I mentioned in my post of October 12th. [...]

  3. [...] Back in October last year, I warned that it would be foolish to write off McLaren just because they had a bad season. And I admit to some relief that they have proved me right so far (unlike Honda). [...]

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