Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Q&A: Alonso on McLaren-Honda’s troubled start

2017 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso faced the media after the sixth day of pre-season testing to give his reaction to a difficult start to the season for McLaren. Here’s what he had to say.

From the outside the situation looks alarming. On a scale of one to ten, how bad is it?

“I don’t know, let’s say that we are not matching our expectations and we are not as fast as we wanted to be in this winter testing.”

“On the other hand it’s only winter testing. I remember 2014, Red Bull were doing like seven laps in winter testing and won two or three grands prix that year. So let’s say that the season is long enough that you can have time to react.

“But right now there is no secret. We cannot pretend that we are happy and everything is going OK. We are not completing our programme, we are not doing the laps we plan every morning. We are missing some information.”

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“With the lack of laps there are always some items that they go through to the next day. The next day we cannot complete the programme, then go to the next day. And now there are only two days left, one for each driver.”

“So definitely a little bit behind schedule in terms of reliability and in terms of performance. But this is winter testing and it’s what it’s all about.”

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
McLaren’s situation is “similar to last year”
Is the situation more similar to 2015 or 2016?

“I think it’s similar to last year to be honest. 2015 probably we were even more behind than now. It’s similar to last year.”

“Probably this year it’s a little bit more frustrating because the change of regulations and things like that, you have higher hopes. You think that you can close the gap over the winter so definitely we need to improve and we must improve. The situation is far from ideal.”

“But we are a big team. McLaren has been dominating the sport for many years and fighting for the championship for many years. I always drive in Formula One and when you think about McLaren or when you see a McLaren you are afraid of them when you are an opponent because you know McLaren will sort things quickly as a big team.”

“So this is what we need. We need a reaction from everyone, stay united, working close to each other, but definitely a big reaction that I expect from the team immediately.”

Are the problems just pure engine power or is it drive-ability of the engine? Is there some deficit from the chassis side?

“The chassis side is difficult because we are not pushing the speed as the others are doing because of the lack of power. So the chassis everything feels good, everything feels under control. The car is responding well to changes and everything is working fine. I am happy with the balance, I am happy how to attack the corner. I am happy driving this car. I don’t think that we are too far back in terms of chassis side.”

“We have only one problem, that is the power unit. There is no reliability and there is no power. I think we are 30kph down in the straight, every straight. When you are 30kph down in every straight it’s difficult also to have a feeling on the car. Everything feels good but when you arrive to normal speed you don’t know what is going to happen.”

You say you want a big reaction, but it takes a long time and Honda don’t have this?

“Well I think this is probably more of a question for Honda. I have a lot of time. As I said I’m enjoying, I prepared myself better than ever.”

“I feel really strong driving this year with these cars. I can do also my driving style, my quick input on the steering wheel on entries like in the old days. So I’m really enjoying, I feel very strong, I’m feeling the strongest here. But I don’t have the power. I have a lot of time.”

There’s been different issues every day. Apart from the oil tank which has been solved, have any others been solved?

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Oil tank trouble was an “amateur” mistake
“No we are improving. I think every lap we do there is a lot of information coming to the team and improving the situation slowly.”

“The oil tank was quite an amateur problem that we had that day. And then from day one we keep unlocking a little bit the situation in terms of power, in terms of reliability.”

“But when you do more laps, you discover other things. Temperature in the rear caliper or whatever, bodywork that is not properly tight. Things that normally you discover in day one or day two in winter testing. As we do 40 laps every day we are like in day two of testing for everyone else. We are discovering those little things.

“But nothing to worry for Australia I guess. The team will be fully ready to compete in a good level. The only question mark is how much power we will have.”

Is the top speed deficit still due to lack of hybrid deployment. Is that still the case? Is it both the engine and the hybrid?

“I don’t know. It’s a question for Honda where they are lacking power. I’m not an engineer or engine designer. Yet. Maybe in the future.”

“I don’t think it is a deployment issue because there are many straights here so in one straight or in the other you deploy until the braking point and you lose 30, 40 kph in every straight.”

How much is this hurting you?

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Alonso believes he’s in stronger shape than ever
“Not so much. I’m going always anti-clockwise. The people go pessimistic, I go optimistic. The people is over-excited, I’m getting worried.”

“So I feel confident that this year we will be competitive. I don’t know at which point of the year but we will be competitive and I want to win races, I want to be in the podium. And if everything goes in the wrong direction I will attack next year.”

“It brings me more motivation to continue and to win because I will not stop racing without a good feeling and a good result that I think I deserve.”

“If one day I feel in the car people I see on the corners that they do fantastic lines, they brake later than me, they accelerate earlier than me, they do better starts than me, that day I will stop and say ‘it’s time’. What I’m seeing now is completely the opposite.”

“More than ever, this year, this winter, what I see on the track, what I see in myself it’s at the best level. Now it’s time to attack.”

Are you able to take turn three flat out?

“Oh yeah. For us not only turn three. For us maybe all the corners are flat.”

2017 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 39 comments on “Q&A: Alonso on McLaren-Honda’s troubled start”

    1. Are you able to take turn three flat out?

      “Oh yeah. For us not only turn three. For us maybe all the corners are flat.”


      1. Quite the zinger :)

        1. Meanwhile McLaren have cancelled the briefing with Honda which was supposed to take place today:


      2. Yep, that last quote is gold!

      3. At least he’s got a nice flat-peaked cap though..

    2. Some nice quotes there –

      I always drive in Formula One and when you think about McLaren or when you see a McLaren you are afraid of them when you are an opponent because you know McLaren will sort things quickly as a big team

      People are still afraid of Mclaren…. of the Honda engine blowing up very unexpectedly.

      “Oh yeah. For us not only turn three. For us maybe all the corners are flat.”

      It’s about time he threw an insult or two at Honda… this one was pretty funny too.

      1. “We have only one problem, that is the power unit. There is no reliability and there is no power.” Lol – in your face Honda!

    3. Honda needs another team. How can you compete against the others if, even without reliability issues, you’re doing a third of what the other engine manufacturers are capable of?

      You’ll never catch up. Renault, Red Bull and Toro Rosso together are tripling Honda ever day, never mind Mercedes, Force India and Williams with that ultra reliable engine. I guess even Ferrari is getting some relevant information with Sauber running the old engine.

      Honda’s not entirely to blame for that. McLaren want exclusivity and a powerful and reliable engine from a manufacturer that arrived a year too late into the party (or more, if we assume Mercedes started their homework with this engine formula long before 2014). Honda can’t do miracles in that sense: sure, they aren’t doing well, but it’s difficult to chose a worse scenario than this.

      1. @fer-no65 ”(or more, if we assume Mercedes started their homework with this engine formula long before 2014).”
        – 2011 at the very earliest as that’s when the 2014 reg changes were confirmed, so they couldn’t possibly have started working on the current V6 turbo engine formulae much earlier than that.

        1. @jerejj – Mercedes started working on this tech in 2007 and were aggressive in their push for these regs. This is why no one will catch up unless the regs are changed. Mclaren and Honda should be working on what those new regs are (post 2020) and working on them now. They need to also get more teams involved so that they can threaten to leave if they don’t get their way and it will effect as many teams as possible (you know, the merc strategy). If they can sneak in a private tyre test, even better!

          1. @asherway Just because Montezemolo claimed that doesn’t mean it’s true. I highly doubt Mercedes actually started working on the current V6 turbos that early, I mean how could they have known for sure four years before the confirmation of the 2014 reg changes (confirmed in June or July 2011) that F1 would go to exactly this engine formula in seven years time? And furthermore, Mercedes wasn’t the only manufacturer that pushed aggressively for these regs and gave them as a condition for their F1 commitment, but Renault (actually they pushed for this engine formula even more than Mercedes), and Honda as well.

            1. @jerejj – Why would you choose to just straight up disbelieve what someone has said (without any denial from Mercedes), especially when that person was actually there and involved in the process?

              “how could they have known” – I guess it was just one big coincidence then hey?!

          2. ”Mclaren and Honda should be working on what those new regs are (post 2020) and working on them now.”
            – The same applies to this suggestion as well: as of writing this nobody knows what type of engines/PUs we’ll have in 2021 or whether the current V6 turbos will still be used in four years time, so how could Mclaren and Honda possibly start working on ‘unconfirmed’ stuff based on pure guessing?

            1. @jerejj – True, but someone has to propose a formulae, so why not get ahead of the game and be the entity that solves the “PU dilemma”? It wouldn’t be “guessing”, it would be backed up with some rationale regarding the health of the sport / cost / image / manufacturer concerns etc etc.

              This is how you win in F1. You get ahead of the regs.

          3. @asherway I won’t buy the ‘Mercedes started working on the current engine formula in 2007’ claim as long any actual physical valid evidence that would entirely back up the claim isn’t made public. Also, don’t disregard the possibility of Montezemolo being misquoted, which is something that can happen. I usually trust that people have really said something they’ve been quoted as saying, but still, the thing is that unless you’ve actually heard a person saying something you can’t be entirely sure whether he/she’s actually said the exact wording, etc. In general, I just prefer to be at least a little skeptical about certain things, which lack actual evidence, etc.

      2. Not a year too late… 3 years late… cause most manufacturer started work 3 years before the rule change and Honda started in 2013 only.

        1. So thats a 2 year advantage. 3 years before the rule change is 2011 and the difference between 2013 is 2 years.

    4. The Blade Runner (@)
      9th March 2017, 10:38

      I wonder whether a Renault engine might be a possibility for McLaren. There will obviously be multiple factors affecting whether that could happen but I am sure McLaren will have a performance clause in their Honda contract which would give them the opportunity to source an alternative engine. As it is my Honda lawnmower looks more capable of doing 50+ laps…

      Red Bull are looking strong with their own version of the Renault engine. Who knows!?

    5. Do what Bruce McLaren would have done (did): drop in an all-aluminum, 7-litre, fuel-injected Chevrolet and make the ground shake!

      1. I suspect this Honda engine is more powerful than a normally aspirated 7 litre engine.

        1. @drycrust
          Power is irrelevant when the Honda won’t go 10 laps.

    6. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      9th March 2017, 12:08

      What a waste of a great talent. Honda deserve all the flack they are receiving tbh.

      1. +1. In fact, I think they deserve a helluva a lot more!

        Since their second (I think?) come back as a full-time engine supplier in 2000, I always got the impression that their culture/work ethic were out of touch with the demands of Formula 1 in the 21st century. It’s the same story today.

      2. I agree on half of your statement. I blame Honda for their method of operation when it comes to input. I also blame McClaren for trying to go with the zero size design it didn’t give Honda much of an option with their radical engine design.

        1. Sorry but that is a lot of bull. Mclaren didn’t force Honda to do zero design engine or anything like that.
          If Honda thought that it couldn’t be done they would have said so. Honda simple overestimated themselves and underestimated the competition.

    7. Get the deck chairs ready!

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        9th March 2017, 12:20

        Lol. Wishful thinking but any chance he could take over babysitting duties from Massa and let Button back in?

        1. Button will be having too much fun on his Yamaha quad bike.

        2. Joking aside I love Alonso. He must be that het up that given a decent Williams he’s probably win the championship.

    8. My number 1. Fernando is never boring. He deserves another title more than anyone else. Come on Nando, next year on the Mercedes. Practice on the GP2 again this year. Last answer is making me laugh loud

    9. When your engine is so bad your driver starts considering making his own:

      “I’m not an engineer or engine designer. Yet. Maybe in the future.”

      1. Hahaha +1

        I’m sure he’s sitting in the engineering briefings helping them brainstorm on technology… that’s how little his faith is in Honda

        1. Alonso: Can you add nitro?
          Engineer: It’s not allowed, Fernando
          Alonso: What about a turbo-button?
          Engineer: facepalm

        2. Mr Alonso: Mr Honda, I am worried the Honda RA617H engine isn’t honourable enough to be in Formula One.
          Mr Honda: Why would you think that? Isn’t it the most powerful engine ever made by Honda? It is made with much wisdom and craftsmanship.
          Mr Alonso: Of course, but Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault all make engines with better wisdom than your engine has.

    10. He should take a year off like prost did in 1992 for his own good.

    11. Does the cap have a hard hat underneath… jeez that looks terrible!

    12. Re “When you are 30kph down in every straight it’s difficult also to have a feeling on the car.”
      The impression I got last year for the Honda engine was it was as though the turbines used weren’t big enough for the job and the generator / alternator on the MGU-H needed to be able to generate more power at top speed.
      Does anyone know if Honda did upgrade the turbines and MGU-H for this season?

    13. Why people think that Honda make good engines?
      Bar Honda 2001-2002 have bad engine, also Honda Inycar engine is weaker than Chevrolet engine.

    14. Jordan did quite well with Mugen Honda engines in the past… Weren’t they in with a title shot one year with Frentzen when using them?

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