Fernando Alonso’s run of abysmal luck reached a flashpoint today. After failing to make Q3 in qualifying, the McLaren-Honda driver was forced to retire from the first race of the season. However, Alonso managed to make it over half distance in the race, which was a leap from the number of laps the team completed during pre-season testing.
“In normal conditions we should be last and second last…”
– Fernando Alonso
Alonso suffered a suspension failure which caused him to retire. His young team-mate of Stoffel Vandoorne came home in 13th, the last of those who managed to finish the race. Both are signs that the Honda/Mclaren teething problems that began three years ago, still haven’t resolved.
Until recently, Alonso had remained positive of his team and Honda, ensuring the fans that the much-needed power would come. Today, Vandoorne was slowest of the 20 cars through the speed trap, another sign that McLaren’s woes are far from over.
Honda F1 boss – Yusuke Hasegawa – has said they will have a new engine in two months but analysts remain sceptical, uncertain as to whether the ‘new engine’ will be a boost in power that Mclaren so badly crave, and there’s always a chance that reliability could completely go out of the window with a completely new system.
“They seem to have gone backwards!”
– Martin Brundle
Alonso claimed that today’s 2017 opener was the “best race of his life”. It is difficult not to agree with him after studying the data. Manoeuvring a stricken McLaren for an hour, which is down on power, makes the driver a sitting duck. The shots of the McLaren limping along the straights say it all, yet the two-time World Champion was able to hold his own against quicker cars attacking from the rear.
Things look unlikely to improve in time for China – where the F1 circus will be headin in two weeks’ time. This isn’t good news for a double World Champion, whose comments post-sessions are slowly beginning to show the cracks. Even Alonso is losing optimist.
“On normal tracks our position will be a bit lower so we need to improve immediately because otherwise we are going to have very frustrating races.”
– Fernando Alonso
Unfortunately, drastic changes are looking increasingly unlikely in the short-term. If you wanted to be optimistic, you could say that Alonso’s running in the points before retirement is at least something to take away, especially given the little running the MCL32 had in pre-season testing. If, and it’s a big if, Honda can at least deliver a reliable PU, they can then pour all resources into extracting performance.