Double world champion Fernando Alonso’s patient with Mclaren Honda might be heading for a divorce after some string of poor reliability & performance issues at preseason and the Australian GP. What was gone wrong for Fernando Alonso at his second stint with Mclaren
3 year term at Mclaren-Honda
Alonso was signed at Mclaren-Honda for a period of 3 years starting from 2015/16 to 2017/18. During the first year at Mclaren, he had to face too many reliability & poor performance issues. He did not complete most of the races and despite this poor show, Alonso was patient enough & he repeatedly said that the Honda was in their initial phase of new V6 turbo engine and the project was mainly focused on building Mclaren for 2016/17 season. In his second stint back at Mclaren, the team finished in 9th position ahead of Manor Racing in the constructors championship.
Reasonable 2nd year
Although, Honda improved their reliability and the performance was said to be reasonable, Mclaren were regularly fighting for a spot in the midfield. Alonso with his extra-ordinary driving, gave Mclaren their highest ever finish with Honda. He notched up two fifth place finishes at the Grand Prix of Monaco and United States respectively. He has a 6th place finish at Russian Grand Prix and couple of 7th place that saw him earn 10th in the drivers championship. Mclaren-Honda achieved 6th in the constructors championship with 76 points.
The pressure was obviously on Honda engines to deliver and both the Mclaren & the Honda were confident going into the pre-season testing. They have changed the livery from black to orange thereby sticking to their vintage color. The livery changes was matched by the name change moving from their trademark “MP4” to “MCL32”. There was quite a major change at helm as Ron Dennis, the founder & CEO was ousted from Mclaren. American Zak Brown took over the position of executive director at Mclaren.
With new livery & with great hopes, Mclaren-Honda started the preseason in the worst possible manner. Fernando Alonso was forced to stop the car twice with intermittent electrical issues. The team had changed a number of electrical components on both PU and the chassis, but the problem persisted. Finally, Honda found the source of the problem and it was the excessive vibrations from Honda engine that some-how brought the car to stall.
Overall, the statistics have provided that the Mclaren were the last team in terms of mileage & performnace. This preseason failure dashed any hopes for the season opener at Melbourne. Mclaren-Honda had 2 weeks time to prepare for the Australian GP
Albert Park, Melbourne
With the poor reliability, there were questions whether the Mclaren-Honda would complete the full 57 laps at the Albert Park. With such a poor car Mclaren Honda entered the qualifying with utterly no hopes. Fernando Alonso used all his experience and talent to get the best out of the car as he qualified at stunning 13th position. Daniel Ricciardo who finished 10th in qualifying was demoted after receiving a penalty from FIA which in-turn pushed Alonso to 12th in the qualification.
Alonso had reasonable start gaining one position and occupying 11th. Romain Grosjean who was running in 6th position had to retire early, this moves Alonso to 10th & an unlikely points finish was on the cards for Mclaren. Alonso firmly held on to the 10 position for major part of the race and he was fighting the Force India of Esteban Ocon & Nico Hulkenberg of Renault for 10th, 11th & 12th positions respectively. Alonso did a great job in holding off Ocon who had 20km/hr advantage on the straight over him. Eventually Alonso lost his place to Ocon & Hulkenberg. In the end, the double world champion had to retire from the Australian GP with a suspension failure.
Alonso blasts Honda
Despite producing a promising Australian GP display, the two time world champion showed his frustration by claiming that Mclaren ‘Should be last’ on the performance-wise when compared to other competitors. Alonso played down the good Australian GP performance by saying it was down to some good fortune and has nothing to do with the car.
Alonso & Honda stands on a single thread
Going by Mark Webber, a F1 pundit & close friend of Alonso, who said that “Alonso might not see full season with Mclaren Honda”. Alonso is started showing signs of frustration & he has openly criticized Honda, the very first time he is being doing that. One cannot question the patient shown by Fernando Alonso as he is giving everything and rightfully earning pundit’s applause for his spectacular driving skill throughout this troublesome period.
Honda said that they will be bringing an upgraded engine in one month time (max). Should Honda fail yet again, then Fernando Alonso who is in last year of his contract with Mclaren may walk away before even the contract expires, if the same level of performance shown by Honda at Melbourne is being repeated . Fernando Alonso may switch over for a vacancy at Mercedes if Bottas fails to live up to the expectation in the current season or Ferrari consider to replace Raikkonen.