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Fernando Alonso to test for McLaren F1 team in ambassador role

Fernando Alonso will test McLaren's 2019 Formula One car and assist race drivers in a new ambassadorial role, the team announced on Wednesday.

By: AP | Published: February 27, 2019 6:14:40 pm
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain waves to spectators in the pit. (Source: Reuters)

Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso will test McLaren’s 2019 Formula One car and assist race drivers in a new ambassadorial role, the team announced on Wednesday.

The Spaniard left Formula One at the end of last season but attended pre-season testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday.

McLaren said in a statement that Alonso would help advise compatriot Carlos Sainz and British rookie Lando Norris as well as engineers.

“He will also drive at selected tests to support the development of MCL34 and MCL35 for 2020,” the team added.

Alonso is also racing at the Indianapolis 500 in May for a McLaren team and is seeking to become only the second driver after Britain’s Graham Hill to win motorsport’s Triple Crown.

A winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race and Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis is the final part of the triple for the 37-year-old who won his two F1 titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.

“Fernando is part of the McLaren family,” said team boss Zak Brown in a statement.

“He has set his place in the team’s history and continues to write his chapter of the McLaren story, so it is entirely appropriate that we formalise his status as a McLaren ambassador, joining another double champion, Mika Hakkinen.

“For any race team, having someone of Fernando’s class on hand to provide support through his experience is of huge value.”

Alonso, who is also competing in the world endurance championship with Toyota, said he saw McLaren as a ‘spiritual home’ and intended to be a part of the team for a long time and Indianapolis was just a start of their further collaboration.

“I am particularly passionate about nurturing young talent, whether that’s with my own team or helping the new generation of Formula One drivers at McLaren unlock their true potential,” he said.

Ferrari driver Vettel crashes in F1 preseason testing

Sebastian Vettel crashed into a tire barrier in Formula One preseason testing on Wednesday, damaging his Ferrari but not sustaining any injuries.

Vettel lost control on Turn 3 at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, going through the gravel and hitting the wall.

Ferrari said Vettel was “off due to a mechanical problem.” It said the car was sent back to the garage “for all the needed checks.”

The Italian team did not specify what problem led to Vettel’s crash in the morning session of the second of four days of testing.

The crash prompted a red flag, and Vettel’s Ferrari had to be towed back to the garage.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz was leading Wednesday’s session with a time of 1 minute, 17.144 seconds, the fastest so far after six days of testing. Vettel had the second fastest time of the day, followed by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas.

Also Wednesday, McLaren said two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will be the team’s ambassador and continue to advise its drivers and engineers, as well as “drive at selected tests to support the development” of the team’s cars for 2020.

Alonso, who was at the Barcelona track on Tuesday, will drive for McLaren in this year’s Indy 500.

Renault said Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, who raced for Williams last season, will be the team’s reserve driver in 2019.

Testing will continue through Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish Grand Prix.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is on March 17.

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