Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren F1 Team, has praised Verizon IndyCar Series reigning champion Josef Newgarden and four-time champion Scott Dixon as “outstanding talents” and has also claimed that they would succeed in Formula One.
Brown is at Daytona International Speedway this week in the run-up to this weekend’s Rolex 24, where two of his signed drivers, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris are competing with United Autosports; another team that Brown chairs.
During a press conference at the circuit, Brown was asked if there were any Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that he would like to see get to drive a Formula One car. This comes after Haas F1 Team‘s principal, Guenther Steiner, recently made headlines and enemies by stating that there were no American drivers good enough to compete in F1.
Brown went on to say that he disagreed with Steiner’s controversial comments and that he believed that the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Josef Newgarden, and fellow champion Scott Dixon were the two drivers he rated the highest:
“Specifically, I think Josef Newgarden is an outstanding talent, and Scott Dixon is an outstanding talent,” Brown stated, before going on to compare Dixon to one of his own Formula One drivers, Fernando Alonso.
“I think what happens to drivers is that they eventually lose motivation, that’s what catches up with them. So if you look at someone like Michael Schumacher, he was very competitive into his 40s. Had he not taken those few years off, those last couple of tenths [of a second] he was maybe off [on his return in 2010], I don’t think he would have been, and he was in his 40s.
“Fernando has that same type of dedication. I think Fernando is driving as well as he’s ever driven and just because he’s going to turn 37 later this year, I don’t think the stopwatch is going to get any slower. Someone like Scott Dixon reminds me of Fernando, where he’s extremely fit, very dedicated, as fast as ever, and I think he would be competitive in a Formula 1 car.”
Previously, Zak had also commented on what he thought was the main factor as to why drivers like Newgarden and Dixon would be hindered if they tried to make an appearance in Formula One:
“The biggest challenge you have is the lack of testing,” Brown added, “You only get eight pre-season days of testing and even that is with one car, so you rotate drivers. To take away a day from Fernando’s four and Stoffel [Vandoorne]’s four makes no sense.
“So until that rule changes, it will be difficult for a driver outside of the Formula One arena, or Formula Two, to break into Formula One, because they have such a disadvantage. The system doesn’t really allow you to bring someone in, so I think it’s great that Toro Rosso took someone like Brendon Hartley because there’s risk with that decision – but he knows all those tracks.”
Brown’s United Autosports will field two cars in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Qualifying takes place later this evening, with the #23 Ligier of Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris and Phil Hansen, along with the sister #32 car of Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer vying for top honours in the Prototype class.