Jost Capito: McLaren boss wants to keep Fernando Alonso beyond 2017

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Jost Capito
Jost Capito won three World Rally Championships as Volkswagen Motorsport boss prior to joining McLaren

The new boss of McLaren's Formula 1 team, Jost Capito, is determined to retain Fernando Alonso beyond 2017.

Two-time world champion Alonso is under contract until the end of next season.

However, the Spaniard, 35, has said he wants to see how the new 2017 cars behave before deciding on his future.

"If the car and the engine are good, and he enjoys the new rules, there is no reason why he shouldn't stay," said Capito, who became McLaren Racing CEO in September.

"Fernando is a great asset for the team and we should do everything to keep him."

F1 is introducing rules that will make the cars up to five seconds a lap faster, while Pirelli has been tasked with providing tyres on which drivers can push to the limit throughout races, which has not been possible since the Italian company introduced fragile rubber six years ago.

Capito, speaking exclusively to BBC Sport in his first interview since joining McLaren, said his friendship with two-time Spanish world rally champion Carlos Sainz, who drove for the German in his previous role as head of Volkswagen Motorsport, had helped him form a bond with Alonso.

He said: "Carlos has a good relationship with Fernando and I have a good relationship with Carlos - that helped quite a lot to create very quickly a very good and close relationship with Fernando."

The 54-year-old also said:

  • The departure of Ron Dennis, who recruited him, had not affected his desire to work at McLaren.
  • He expects to make changes to the structure of the team.
  • He believes McLaren have all the right people to return to winning form.
  • He expects a "big step" forward in performance from McLaren in 2017.

On Dennis' departure

Dennis announced his decision to hire Capito in January, but the German had to wait until his responsibilities at VW had been discharged before joining McLaren on 1 September.

Dennis has now been put on 'gardening leave' pending the end of his contract as chairman and chief executive, and no longer runs the company.

Capito said: "Ron employed everyone here because he was the guy in charge - but I came to join McLaren and that's it."

Ron Dennis
Ron Dennis did not want to step down and failed in a High Court bid to prevent McLaren putting him on 'gardening leave'

On his hopes for 2017

McLaren climbed to sixth in the constructors' championship this season after a dire 2015 in which they finished ninth of 11 teams in the first year of their renewed engine partnership with Honda.

And Capito says they could make another significant step forward next year.

"I expect improvement on the car from McLaren and a big step from Honda on the engine," he said. "It takes always a certain time to form a team with a new partner like this.

"McLaren and Honda were partners before [from 1988-92] but it was a long time ago. All new people are involved and it takes a while for Honda to understand how McLaren works and for McLaren to understand how Honda works. I think this is now achieved.

"It is a very good partnership and the Honda guys understand more what is needed from the chassis side and we understand more what is needed from the engine side as well.

"I expect really not just the improvement of each but also the improvement of the overall relationship. So one plus one is not two - it should be three."

On rebuilding the team

Eric Boullier
Eric Boullier was the Lotus team principal for four seasons prior to joining McLaren's new management team

Eric Boullier has undertaken a restructuring of McLaren since joining as racing director at the start of the 2014 season.

However, Capito, who is the Frenchman's boss, said further alterations were required.

"Lots of changes have to be done - but with changes you always have to be careful about how and when you apply them," he said.

"I am pretty clear. I have a clear wish in what should be done.

"I had lots of talks with many employees from the cleaner to the racing director and I think I know what has to be done. Mainly there has to be a cultural change - it has to become more of a race team again."

Capito would not say whether he wanted to change the design leadership structure Boullier has imposed.

The team has been reorganised so aerodynamics leader Peter Prodromou, engineering director Matt Morris and technical director Tim Goss all report to Boullier and chief operating officer Jonathan Neale, rather than the team having a single technical leader, such as at Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Capito refused to say whether he would retain this structure or designate a specific person to have the final say on design and engineering decisions.

"It's early to say that," Capito said. "It will not be a hierarchical staff. On the principle of hierarchy, we have to become leaner and not more complicated - and it will be maybe not a usual organisation, but very clear for everybody who is involved.

"The right people have to be in place but everybody has to be aware of his own responsibilities and accountability. The engineering team we have is fantastic, that I absolutely believe."

Any major changes to McLaren Racing would have to be approved by Neale and the new executive committee running the company, comprised of 25% shareholder Mansour Ojjeh and 50% shareholders Mumtalakat, the Bahrain sovereign investment fund.

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