There was some interesting body language on display in the SkySports F1 feature #AskCrofty after the first day of testing in week two. Crofty took questions from Twitter and grilled Eric Boullier on the subject of Alonso getting fed up and retiring, and Boullier was deflective at best.
Alonso’s recent press conference wasn’t great either, the Spaniard didn’t do much on the front of protecting his team as much as he joined in with the criticism of Honda, albeit jokingly saying that power-unit was so weak that he could go flat out around every corner of the Circuit de Catalunya.
He also told Spanish media that,
“If the others start braking later than me and accelerating earlier, then I know it is time to stop.”
– Fernando Alonso
Nobody really questions Alonso’s ability as a driver, but the machinery beneath him this season will yet again prevent him from being where he should be, near the front, challenging the positions that matter. It isn’t that Alonso’s appetite for racing is declining, but more that everyone is expecting him to be incredibly frustrated this season. It’s different for Vandoorne because it’s all new for him, even if they are running around near the back, or more likely, running midfield with a high rate of retirements, the Belgian driver will be competing in F1 more often than he ever has.
Across the garage, Alonso has experienced everything that F1 has to offer and more. Pushing in minnows like Minardi, progressing with Renault, winning titles with the works team and ending Schumacher’s reign at the top, scandal with Flavio, winning on home turf in the famous red car, and now waiting for what will be three years for a sleeping giant to wake up.
The problem with this sleeping giant is that Honda has force-fed it a bottle of night nurse and what looks like a deeper sleep has followed. Alonso’s attitude is well placed, he wants to finish with a good feeling in the car and at the moment that he realises that he isn’t doing as good a job as the youngsters, he will go.
But the Spaniard will get frustrated this season, and there’s no guarantee that he will see it out with McLaren. What he says now is with the vision that McLaren-Honda will improve this season – what if they don’t? At the time of writing, the team have had to change the power-unit of the McLaren-Honda EIGHT times – that’s in twelve sessions by the way, and will be nine in twelve if it splutters out of life again this afternoon.
If Alonso were to pursue his inevitable WEC career early, who could honestly blame him? In the #AskCrofty feature, Boullier admits that Jenson Button would be able to return to the seat should Alonso leave. The framework of Button’s sabbatical contract is that much clearer now, it’s pre-emptive of Alonso getting fed up, and the signs aren’t great in pre-season testing.