New McLaren chief Zac Brown says Fernando Alonso is “buzzing” ahead of the new season and rates his driver as the “best” in the world.
This season will mark Alonso’s 16th Formula 1 campaign and it is one in which the Spaniard is hoping McLaren can continue their recovery.
The 35-year-old has spent the past two seasons battling to score points leading to some suggestions that he is ‘disillusioned at times’.
Brown says that is not true.
“First of all, I want to correct you,” he told the official F1 website. “I don’t see Fernando as disillusioned at all. I don’t know him well yet, but I’ve met him a few times, and phoned him too, and I can tell you that he’s buzzing.
“Also, even though our car wasn’t fully competitive last season, some of his drives were stunningly good. Look, I’ll be frank: I reckon he’s the best driver in the world, period.”
This season Alonso will have a new team-mate in Stoffel Vandoorne as the 24-year-old contests his debut campaign.
The Belgian racer has already proven himself a points-scorer as he finished P10 in his one and only grand prix, the 2016 Bahrain GP, a race in which he substituted for the injured Alonso.
Brown continued: “Bearing that in mind, Stoffel faces a serious test. But, guess what, I think he’ll pass it with flying colours.
“Our personal trainers tell me he’s probably the fittest driver we’ve ever had, and he’s incredibly focused and determined. He’s fiercely intelligent too – you never have to tell him anything twice.
“His grand prix debut in Bahrain last year was sensational – he out-qualified and out-raced Jenson [Button] despite having minimal time to prepare for the weekend. In fact he only arrived in Bahrain on the Friday morning, straight off a long two-flight journey from Japan via Dubai.
“I think Stoffel will surprise a few people. He’s the real deal.”