McLaren boss Zak Brown believes Fernando Alonso has as good a chance of winning the Indy 500 on May 28th as any of the top drivers in the field.
Brown was the principal instigator behind Alonso’s venture at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and enjoyed a front-row seat on Wednesday when the Spaniard made his debut at the Brickyard.
All things considered, the McLaren executive believes the two-time F1 world champion is in for a shot at winning the Indy 500.
“I think he can win,” Brown told CNN’s World Sport.
“He’s going in with the mindset of doing the best job possible and if he’s able to do that, and if he’s got a good car underneath him — which he does — he’s absolutely capable of winning.
“There’s about 15 people who can win the race — to give you a sense of how competitive it is — and he is one of those,” Brown added.
“He knows it’s a long way to the race and so he’s just laser focused.”
Asked about the possibility that Alonso’s experience at Indy could prove compelling and lead to the Spaniard leaving F1 for a season in the US, Brown said he was thinking about that prospect for now.
“I think he wants to race competitively, he’s got a lot of time left in his career and has a decent amount of time left in his F1 career.
“Something like this just motivates him but I don’t think it necessarily takes him off his track which is to win another world championship.”
Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda believes that Ferrari still has the upper hand against Mercedes despite Valtteri Bottas’ win in Sochi last Sunday.
The German squad dominated Formula 1 in the past three season but this year a Ferrari resurgence has instilled doubt in the Mercedes camp.
“Ferrari is clearly ahead,” Lauda told the Austrian newspaper Krone.
“We need to analyse what exactly is not working and take the right steps for Barcelona.
“Because all the teams will bring updates, Ferrari will make a step forward, we have to make two and Red Bull needs to make three,” he added.
Mercedes has identified a chronic weakness in the way its W08 deals with tyre degradation, but Lauda insists that’s not the only problem facing.
It is said that Mercedes’ biggest problem is inconsistency with the tyres, but Lauda says that’s not the only issue affecting the Silver arrows’ performance.
“We have too much weight in the car, we need to improve the aerodynamics, and above all we need to understand why the new Pirelli tyres do not work as they do on the Ferrari,” he said.
Finally, Lauda appeared to agree with reports that suggest Valtteri Bottas is on course for a new contract for 2018, after winning in Russia.
“It was a perfect performance that I never expected,” he said.
“It was the right decision by Toto Wolff and myself to get Bottas on board. Bottas is our man.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff wants to see how Valtteri Bottas perform in more races before considering any contract discussions with the Russian GP winner.
Bottas delivered a flawless race Sunday at Sochi, conquering his very first Grand Prix triumph after 81 races, 77 of which were done with Williams.
On the rostrum Sunday afternoon, master of ceremony Eddie Jordan pointed a finger at Toto Wolff down below, publicly urging Mercedes to extend with wait Bottas’ one-year contract.
But Wollf wants to see more before committing the German squad to the Finn’s future.
“I think to discuss his position in the team after a few races is foolish,” Wolff said.
“He should be given some time, because in the junior categories he did excellent results, and there was never a season when he was at Williams where he failed to beat his teammate.
“Now he has become Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, he has a pole position and he won the race today,” the Austrian added.
So for now, Wolff said he is happy with his choice about retired world champion Nico Rosberg’s 2017 replacement.
“This race showed that our decision for Valtteri was right,” he told Auto Bild in Russia.
“Both Valtteri and Nico are very analytical, with a calm approach. But the balance between him and Lewis also works well, and this dynamic is part of the success.”