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.”
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?
“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?
“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
- Stripping Verstappen of 2017 US podium was “one of the toughest decisions” – steward
- Sepang pays Haas compensation for Grosjean’s 2017 crash
- Williams revenues rose in 2017 after Bottas deal with Mercedes
- New kerbs at COTA in response to Verstappen’s corner-cutting
- Australian Grand Prix cost government £56 million last year