Zak Brown - the president of McLaren - spoke exclusively to AS in Daytona about Fernando Alonso, how Liberty will change the Formula 1 experience, and the partnership between McLaren and Renault.
We’re at Daytona. A good way to start a year, wouldn't you say?
A great way; that's how I've always started my motor racing years.
Let’s move back to Formula 1. What's your opinion about the Ferrari-Liberty controversy?
I think it was inevitable that there was going to be confrontation between Ferrari and Liberty. Ferrari wants to protect the money that they receive, because they receive a disproportionate amount of money. I think we all recognise that Ferrari as a team has added more value to the sport than anyone else and should be rewarded accordingly, but I think it's too far out of balance and I think Liberty's going to need to do what's best for the sport, because that's what's ultimately best for all of us.
Do you think that Liberty can take the American style to Formula 1?
I think there are parts of the American motor sports that Liberty will bring to Formula 1. I don't think you want to bring all of it, because America's America, Europe's Europe, Asia's Asia; but I certainly think they're going to look at their experience, not only in North American motor sports but sports in general, and bring that to Formula 1 and ultimately focus on the fan, because that's who's most important in our collective world of motor sports. It all starts with the fan.
Has Fernando Alonso surprised you?
He's been awesome. I didn't really know him before joining McLaren. Obviously he had a reputation that he could be difficult to work with; I have found him to be great to work with. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. So my experience has been awesome.
"Alonso is doing something that most others aren't brave enough to do"
He’s racing in the Indy 500, Daytona, Le Mans… he’s not the usual F1 driver.
No. He's doing something that most others aren't brave enough to do. He's really putting himself out there; so I admire him for that.
New year, new engine. How are you feeling about McLaren-Renault?
I think we're going to be good. We're going to be back towards the front of the field and hopefully fighting for podiums.
Do you think Renault could be close to Mercedes?
I think the Renault is close to Mercedes. It won three races last year, so while I think people suggest it is the third-best engine, I think they're all pretty close to each other and they won three races last year.
Will Alonso win the championship again?
Yeah. As long as we can get a car that gives him a chance, I think as a driver he's certainly as capable as anyone of winning the world championship. He's driving as well as he's ever driven.
"His talent is second to none in the car"
Who would you like to see Alonso fight for the title?
I think a Lewis [Hamilton]-Fernando rematch would be fantastic.
Alonso has ‘only’ won two world titles in F1, but many say he has in of the best in history. Why?
Well, his talent is second to none in the car. But I think the real difference is [that] his preparation, dedication, passion and focus outside of the race car is unlike any other driver I've ever seen. I was never around Michael Schumacher, but from what I hear, and how he carried himself, Michael had that level of dedication, and Ayrton Senna. Some other drivers can't hold their focus and passion that long. And he's very special in that manner.