Another terrible start to the season has seen McLaren and Honda’s relationship pulled at the seams. But this year, Fernando Alonso has been much more vocal in his criticism towards the team as, once again, Honda has failed to provide a competitive engine. He was very abrupt when stating yesterday that he “expects” an “immediate” reaction from Honda in a desperate attempt to catch up with the rest of the field.
McLaren-Honda’s pre-season testing has been a nightmare from day one. With two days lost and three engines used in the first two days of last week’s test, already the hope was being diminished. Honda consistently claimed to not know what the issues were with their engines and asked for them to be sent back to base, McLaren were “surprised” by the faults in their new, redesigned engines, and the drivers – especially Alonso – were clearly fed up.
With the second test this week the team were looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, but that has not seemed to be the case. Although Stoffel Vandoorne managed 80 laps on Tuesday his day was compromised when McLaren, once again, had to change the engine in his car. Alonso’s 46 laps from yesterday were a pitiful attempt at catching up on lost ground, and today has been no better. With two stoppages for Vandoorne before the lunch break, Mclaren has spent most of the afternoon in the garage and not managed to hit 50 laps for the second day in a row.
It is no wonder that Alonso has started to get vocal and is demanding Honda steps up their game.
“There is no reliability and there is no power. We are 30kph down on the straight.” Alonso admitted frustratedly after being restricted on laps and track time yesterday. “I’m driving at my best. I feel I am the best driver out there, I just need an engine that can run as quick as the others on the straight. The team are all ready to win except Honda.”
This pre-season test has been worryingly similar to the start of the 2015 season for McLaren-Honda when Honda first re-joined the sport. 2015 saw McLaren use more engine within the season than they scored points and only beating Manor, who at the time were running year old engines, in the Constructor’s Championship. After the gains McLaren and Honda seemed to make last year in respect to 2015, the 2017 engine looks to be a massive step backward.
“The frustration is probably more this year because after the change in regulations you have higher hopes that you can close the gap over winter testing.” Alonso said. “We are not matching our expectations. But on the other hand it is only winter testing and the season is long enough that you have time to react. But right now you cannot say we are happy or that things are going ok.”
Alonso’s frustration could also have something to do with the fact that McLaren-Honda has let him down so far this season yet the Mercedes challenger looks as strong as it did in the past three years. It could be that the 36-year-old Spaniard is regretting his decision at not taking up Mercedes offer to buy out of his McLaren contract early.
(image and quotes: www.foxsportsasia.com)