LONDON — Fernando Alonso made the right move in leaving Ferrari for McLaren even if he has yet to score a point this season, according to the man who has steered the Spaniard’s Formula One career from the start.
Italian Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant and controversial former Renault team boss, said Alonso was happy to be back at the misfiring former champions and enjoying the challenge.
“I believe at one point in Ferrari it was over, from both sides. I believe it was a good change,” the manager said of the move. “McLaren is a serious team. Honda we know is a great company and we are there.
“I don’t think the situation of [Australian Daniel] Ricciardo [at Red Bull] is better than that of Fernando. In Formula One at the moment you have one team and it’s Mercedes. Whatever other team you are second, and second is the first of the losers.”
While Alonso has yet to score a point in his six races, Ferrari have been on the podium in every grand prix this season with the Spaniard’s replacement Sebastian Vettel finishing second in Monaco on Sunday. McLaren ended their drought in that race with Jenson Button finishing eighth.
Briatore, who was banned from Formula One after a 2008 Singapore Grand Prix race-fixing scandal but subsequently had the ruling overturned, felt Ferrari were still no closer to dethroning Mercedes even if they appeared to be more competitive.
“[In qualifying] Vettel was seven-tenths from Lewis [Hamilton] and last year Fernando was fifth [on the grid for Ferrari] and seven-tenths [off pole],” he said, speaking during the race weekend at the principality.
“Between Ferrari and Mercedes it is the same distance. The problem is three or four teams are not there any more. With Honda and McLaren, we have a better future.”
Honda have returned to Formula One this season to renew a partnership with McLaren that enjoyed rare dominance in the late 1980s when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were team-mates.
They have, however, struggled with the complicated new V6 turbo hybrid power units that rivals had been using for a year already.
Alonso won two championships with Briatore’s Renault team after replacing Button, and had an ill-fated year at McLaren in 2007 before returning to Renault and then on to Ferrari.
“He is happy to be staying at McLaren now,” said Briatore. “I don’t understand why you guys think it’s a lot of pressure. Drivers like this are very lucky people. Maybe you have pressure to pay the rent at the end of the month but these people have no pressure at all.”
Briatore, who came into Formula One with Italian clothing company Benetton in the 1980s, said also that the sport needed to return to the basics.
“In Formula One you need a gladiator, you need a fight, you need the show, you need a race …” — Reuters