This weekend, Fernando Alonso gave the most obvious hints so far that McLaren have a big ultimatum on their hands: the services of Fernando Alonso in 2018, or Honda-Power.
The Spaniard was vocal over team radio during the race, calling it embarrassing as he was left defenceless on the Kemmel straight to quicker cars. Despite a solid start in which Alonso navigated his McLaren to 7th, he found himself a sitting duck on the DRS activation zone on the Kemmel straight, and fell back to 12th place as a result.
— Live #F1 News (@LiveF1News) August 29, 2017
Alonso is currently out driving the car, that has consistently shown itself to have a strong chassis that is negated by the power-deficit in the Honda Power Unit. He retired from the race, citing engine problems as the reason. At the time, Honda engineers couldn’t account for any issues on telemetry but retired the car as a precaution.
After the race, it has emerged that Honda still can’t find any issue on the power unit (Possibly for the first time this year!), and think that Alonso simply gave up after a frustrating drop down the order. After the race, Alonso said,
“For sure, it’s not easy to race like this, as you cannot have any good wheel-to-wheel battles. The car was too slow on the straights and it was impossible to have any battles out there, so points were also impossible.
Eventually, we had to stop due to an engine issue.”
– Fernando Alonso
— Honda Racing F1 (@HondaRacingF1) August 25, 2017
He later clarified that he didn’t fake an issue and retire out of his own free will, despite Honda’s insistence that there was no issue.
“It was a problem, an engine problem. We lost the power unfortunately. It was a difficult race, maybe the points were impossible today, let’s see what we can do next week.”
– Fernando Alonso
Alonso is allegedly hopeful about leaving the team if they decide to retain Honda for next season, although a rumoured engine deal with Renault could sway him to stay given the underlying performance of the MCL32’s chassis, its successor is likely to be strong too.
— LastWordOnMotorsport (@LWOS_Motorsport) August 29, 2017
The Renault works team has quashed reports linking the Spanish driver to the team in which he secured his F1 titles in 2005 and 2006, with Renault’s Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul stating that,
“I think he has urgency to be in a position to be fighting for championships again.
“We know that it’s going to take us a bit of time to have a car that can offer that, so clearly the one thing that I would not want is to have a frustrated Fernando in a Renault car, that’s for sure.”
– Cyril Abiteboul
It really would be a great shame for Fernando Alonso to retire from F1 because of this season. He clearly still has fight in him and has displayed tenacity this season with some solid finishes in a car that would struggle to score points in the hands of other drivers on the current grid.
There’s an opening at Andretti-Honda in Indycar that could tempt the Spaniard away. That Championship would inherit a fantastic driver, but F1 fans would rather see him competing next year in more competent machinery. It seems that Alonso will only stay in the sport if McLaren switches engine supplier, or a team capable of giving him a shot at being one of the main players steps in and gives him a seat. Either scenario would do, as Alonso still has life in him yet.