‘Then Fernando Alonso Showed up’ – McLaren Boss Uncovers the Truth behind Disputed Young Driver F1 Test

Published 01/04/2021, 2:26 AM EST
SPA, BELGIUM – Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda talks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


The build-up to the 2020 young drivers’ test proved to be quite a controversial topic. It was a one-day affair in Abu Dhabi, and the likes of Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, and Stoffel Vandoorne were also present at the proceedings, getting some race-time with their respective teams.

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In the 2020 season at least, the purpose of the ‘young drivers’ test’ slightly changed. The latest rules suggested that anyone who had not raced in 2020 became eligible for the test.

Speaking in an interview, McLaren CEO Zak Brown offered his thoughts on the young drivers’ test. He believes that the rules were ‘expanded,’ which allowed drivers outside of the teams’ academies to take part as well.

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Zak Brown believes the young drivers’ test has taken a ‘life of its own’

Brown stated, “It has certainly not developed into what it should be when we decided on the Young Driver Test.

“I think it was in April when we decided on all our cost-saving measures. We wanted to cancel the test for cost reasons, just as we have reduced the tests for [2021].” (translated via Google Translate)

Ideally speaking, the young drivers’ test is an opportunity for youngsters to understand how an F1 car works. In doing so, it tells if a certain young driver could someday get behind the wheel of a team’s car.

McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown and Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Racing Point talk in a press conference during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Andy Hone/Pool via Getty Images)

Brown continued and said, “Back then, some teams that generate income from the Young Driver Test raised their hand and said they would lose the income they needed. Then it took on a life of its own.”

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Renault had earlier requested permission to enter Fernando Alonso in the test

“The rules were expanded, then Fernando Alonso and other drivers showed up,” concluded the McLaren CEO.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 25: Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren F1 walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Despite completing a filming day in the team’s 2020 car in Barcelona, Alonso felt he needed more time to acclimatize to the vehicle. Eventually, the FIA granted Renault permission to let the veteran Spaniard drive their car in Abu Dhabi as well.

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Regardless, Alonso has now gotten some laps under his belt in order to better prepare for the 2021 season. However, from a big picture perspective, the F1 will need to lay down stricter and more solidified guidelines on what exactly constitutes the young drivers’ test going forward.

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Bhargav Gopal

927 articles

Hailing from Bengaluru, Bhargav is an F1 and NASCAR author for EssentiallySports. He is a huge fan of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Bhargav also has an MBA in Sports Management from the Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, Pune.

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