Alonso and Button Together is Great for McLaren and Terrible for F1
Now that the 2014 season of Formula One has officially come to an end, the mystery surrounding the various drivers being shuffled between teams has finally come to a close. Sebastian Vettel is moving to Ferrari to occupy the seat vacated by Fernando Alonso, and in turn Alonso is headed to McLaren. With the announcement, there was a lot of discussion on who would drive with the Spaniard. Jensen Button is not aging as gracefully on the grid as many might have hoped and his rookie partner Kevin Magnussen would take the seat.
This is quite easily the best move McLaren could have ever made, but it’s a terrible decision for Formula One racing and its fans.
I promise I’m not daft, you just need to look at what keeps the sport entertaining and interesting. We love underdogs, we love new heroes, and we love great rivalries. By adding more names to the roster and changing out the old guard, we can keep creating new and exciting stories to get invested in. Instead we are stuck in a group of classic names with new logo strapped to their helmets fighting over the exact same thing they always have been.
Click past the jump to read more about why this change is great for McLaren and terrible for F1.
I know it seems wild to think that putting two of the best drivers the sport has together can be seen as a bad thing, but I feel it continues a bad precedent for the sport in being an inclusive club that is too hard to join. There is plenty of great young talent in the world, and I would love to see many of them get a chance to compete in the upper echelon of racing. But I get why McLaren-Honda made the decision it did.
McLaren is coming off of a tough season, unable to fight against a dominant Mercedes team, and it comes into 2015 with an all-new engine partner in Honda. Alonso and Button represent two of the most experienced drivers on the grid. Button has has 15 years behind the wheel of an F1 car so far and has racked up a combined total of 268 races, the third most for any driver ever. Alonso started just one year later than Button, has managed 236 races, and he holds the record for most career championship points. Between the two drivers they share three Driver’s Championships, 47 wins, and 147 podiums. With the potential exception of Ferrari’s combination of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, there is no one on the grid that can match McLaren’s lineup.
The move makes sense for McLaren though, and I can appreciate that. With an all-new engine, wrapped in a new chassis, and still coping with the major regulation changes having two drivers with unprecedented levels of experience can be invaluable. Both Button and Alonso will be able to provide a level of driver feedback and information that a rookie driver could never provide. They will understand the subtle nuances of how the car is behaving beneath them, how they can go faster in certain sections of track and what can be done to improve the overall feel and performance of the new car.
Like I said before, this move is brilliant for McLaren and Honda.
But what about the fresh faces and new talent? While Button may be a great driver, he only managed to out-qualify his rookie partner 10 races to 9. Button did manage to score twice as many points as Magnussen, but the Dutch rookie tied Button when it came to podium positions with both drivers securing one in the first race of the season. If Magnussen can match Button in his first season, what will the young driver be capable of with some more experience and training? More than 20 percent of the drivers currently confirmed for the 2015 season are over the age of 30, with three more drivers hitting 30 next year. I would just love to see some of these really experienced names retire gracefully to let some of the new talent rise through the ranks.
One such face looking to gain traction is American driver Alexander Rossi. Rossi was a test driver for Caterham, but he never got a chance to secure seat time in a real race. Rossi would have been the first American on the F1 grid since 2007. Now with a shortage of seats in the sport, Rossi is looking to join the ranks of IndyCar instead. How many other great drivers is the sport losing to other forms of motorsport simply because of a lack of seats?
I just hope that once the 2015 season is finished, Button will step down with grace and dignity to allow Magnussen his chance to shine. The world deserves to see new drivers create new stories. The world will never see the next Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher or Jackie Stewart if we never get new drivers into cars.