When Fernando Alonso shows up at the Circuit de Catalunya, it is the same as the Cherubim playing a home game at the Pearly Gates Stadium. The Spaniards have been through hell and back to save their country from economic collapse and through those trying times, they’ve held on dearly to one of their national heroes as a sign of hope.
But hope, is frankly a commodity that is sorely lacking for the double world champion. His second visit to the Catalan track in 2015 didn’t see him wind up in hospital like last time; though by the sounds of it, it wasn’t for any lack of trying on behalf of his car.
The carefully crafted façade that Fernando is where he wants to be and that he hopes to emulate his childhood hero Ayrton Senna in winning a third championship with the iconic McLaren-Honda combo – is beginning to crumble. He didn’t return to Woking because he really wanted to.
He joined the team that he once infamously blackmailed because Alonso had nowhere else to go after Ferrari showed him the door. This version of events of course emanates from non other than Ferrari HQ.
Given the Sky Germany and Sky UK frequent collaborations during an F1 race weekend, we Teutones had the dubious pleasure of listening to Crazy D and Johnny H broadcasting this weekend from Spain. Both are convinced that Fernando Alonso has an exit clause in his contract, should he receive an offer from AMG Mercedes, because that’s where he really wants to be.
Sebastian Vettel was aware when he jumped from the sinking can of Red Bull, that his new Ferrari steed was not about to takes its place in the hall of fame wit other legendary Cavalino Rampantes. But Sebastian has time on his side. Alonso does not.
Fernando is edging closer to being forced to consider seriously beginning his journey to Le Mans. If he wants to win that coveted third title, the Spaniard needs to be racing in a Mercedes soon.
There is no denying that Honda have made great progress in sorting out their disaster of an engine. Renaults have exploded this year far more frequently than the two Japanese units in the back of the MP4-30. Yet Fernando is now on his third ICE, turbo and MGU-H, so one additional change and after that grid penalties loom.
To a MacHonda driver at present, this would mean starting plumb last – then being forced to take time penalties also in the race.
To make matters worse, the MP4-30 is fast developing a reputation as a potential killing machine. The mysterious Barcelona crash during testing is yet to be satisfactorily explained.
Now we understand that Alonso’s accidental ram raid on his pit box during yesterday’s race was caused by a tear-off visor getting stuck in his brake-cooling duct. However, the random nature of such an event precludes it being the cause of a similar problem suffered by Jenson just one day before. The sceptics will be adding this explanation to the increasing scroll of half-truths in what is becoming an entertaining and an eclectic list of misinformation which McLaren has been dishing out since the start of the year.
To cap it all, the usually phlegmatic Jenson Button described his own MP4-30 as downright “dangerous to drive,” adding, “the first 30-odd laps were the scariest 30 laps of my life.”
This is not what the team would be hoping their drivers would say about their lovingly crafted racing prototype which is set to be ‘dominant’ – one day.
But for now, Fernando smiles and his winning charm and brave face are almost believable. Though it is hardly surprising he saddled up his horse and rode off into the Catalan hills, wanting no part in this weeks test at the circuit de Catalunya.
Meanwhile, Jenson is prepared to take his life in his hands once again behind the wheel of the MP4-30 this week on Wednesday – but not before McLaren guinea pig Oliver Turvey gets to taste it first.