McLaren is on the road to recovery and Valtteri Bottas will compete in his first rally
British racing legend Jackie Stewart has praised Red Bull driver Max Verstappen for “rejuvenating” Formula 1.
The Dutchman has driven in F1 since 2015, first for Toro Rosso then for senior team Red Bull, and has won five of his 81 races. Verstappen’s career advancement through the ranks with Red Bull has been a major success story says 79-year-old Stewart.
In a Q&A with F1 Fan Voice, three-time world champion Stewart said: “We need young drivers, we need new blood. And they’re out there. Suddenly, a Verstappen arrives and blows the place apart, and that’s rejuvenating… for Formula 1 that he’s come in and done so well so quickly.”
Red Bull helped him get there, said Stewart, who also lamented the lack of support for young drivers. “Red Bull had [a lot to do with that] by bringing him on through the formative classes of the sport. But it’s tougher today than it’s ever been for a young driver to come along, to find the resources.”
Still only 21, Verstappen will line up at Red Bull in 2019 alongside Pierre Gasly. Gasly, who is 22, steps up from Toro Rosso to replace Daniel Ricciardo.
Other young guns on the grid next season include McLaren’s Lando Norris (19), Williams’s George Russell (20) and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon (22). All three rookies will be making their F1 debuts next year.
Brown: McLaren are recovering
McLaren endured such a disappointing end to the 2018 season that Zak Brown, the Woking-based team’s chief executive officer, has described it as a “low spot”.
McLaren finished sixth in the 2018 F1 constructors’ championship with 62 points but only secured ten points in the final nine races of the campaign.
Now preparing for 2019, Brown says McLaren staff are working hard in the off-season. “I think we’re now on the road to recovery,” he told F1.com.
He added: “Development is going well, teamwork, collaboration, communication, responsibilities, all those things that we fell short of are now going well. But until that race car hits the track that’s the ultimate measurement.. when everyone will be able to visibly see what type of improvement [there’s been] over the winter.
“I certainly think this year is a low spot, and this era is a low spot, in McLaren history,” he said, adding that recovery would take time.
Bottas set for rally debut
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas will swap the track for snow and ice when he makes his rally debut in January.
The Finnish star, who is 29, has signed up to race in the Arctic Lapland Rally, which takes place in Rovaniemi in Finland. Sky Sports reports that he will drive a Ford Fiesta M-Sport R.
Bottas said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has made it possible. It’s a completely new experience for me and I have never driven a WRC [World Rally Championship] car either. Still, as a professional racer, I will always give it my all whatever the car I’m driving.”