McLaren CEO Zak Brown reserved praise for Fernando Alonso after his return to the front of Formula 1 in 2023, showing proof that “age is no barrier to success”.
Alonso left McLaren in 2018 after his second spell at the team, taking what would become a two-year sabbatical to race to widespread success in other series.
Despite the ‘GP2 engine’ jibe levelled at engine partners Honda prior to Brown’s arrival, Alonso left McLaren on seemingly decent terms as he took a break from Formula 1 – but it took a move to Aston Martin to roar back to the front of the field in 2023.
Zak Brown praises Fernando Alonso for McLaren battles in 2023
Having finished seventh in the Constructors’ standings last year, Aston Martin were the surprise package at the start of 2023 by flying out of the traps, and Alonso took full advantage by nipping at the heels of Red Bull in the early stages of the year.
He would go on to finish fourth in the Drivers’ standings with 206 points, in what he would describe as his best season in Formula 1 on a personal level since his title near-miss in 2012.
The closeness of the chasing pack behind Red Bull was a source of excitement for Brown, with McLaren having started the year on the back foot and flown through the competitive order with a raft of mid-season upgrades that took them swiftly from lower midfield runners and into podium contention.
“All year long, the battle amongst the rest of the field has been intense, which enthralled Formula 1 fans across the globe,” Brown wrote in an end-of-season open letter to fans.
“It was also great to see our former driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso proving that at 42, age is no barrier to success — scoring six podiums in the first eight races.
“Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin didn’t make it easy for us, but we pushed at every race on each and every lap, resulting in a thrilling finish where the final positions in the FIA Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship were only decided at the 23rd — and last round — of the season.
“Never before have five different teams scored seven podiums in the same season, which just goes to underscore the competitive nature of the grid this year.”
McLaren eventually overhauled Aston Martin in the Constructors’ standings to take fourth place come the end of the season, with Alonso and Aston finishing fifth in a highly-competitive campaign.