Fernando hints at leaving McLaren


The driver many believed to be the best of the current crop, reverted back to the outspoken driver we saw in the final years at Ferrari, with his open criticism of his team during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix. His radio communications left no one in any doubt as to where the Spaniard places the blame for his car’s lack of performance.

“I am getting passed down the straight like a GP2,” said Fernando, “this is embarrassing, very embarrassing.”

Alonso caused further furore when speaking to the media following the race he refused to confirm whether he would be at McLaren-Honda in 2016.

“I don’t know,” he said, “there are still five races to go now. We need to improve the situation to make sure we are competitive and we are on top of our problems”.

Both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have refrained from criticising the McLaren Honda team this year despite the car/engine combos’ pathetic performance and results.

Jenson made his feelings clear in Singapore over car to pit radio when he mocked the long-winded instructions being given to him by replying, And rub your tummy and pat your head?”

Button was even more vocal over the botched pit stop in Singapore: At last we’ve got a break with safety cars – well actually we got a break last time [we pitted], we just ballsed it up.”

So all is not well in Woking.

Following the 2015 Suzuka race, Ron Dennis was questioned by Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.

First up was the implication made by Alonso that he may not be at McLaren next year. Dennis had this to say about that.

“I didn’t hear that and I cannot make any comment. I don’t know what he means by that comment.

“I spoke to him earlier today. He has a contract, he understands the contract and I am surprised.”

When questioned on Alonso’s radio communications during the race, Dennis was protective of his No. 1 driver

“I think he vented his frustration. I don’t think he needed to make the comments, it wasn’t particularly constructive. We are here in Japan, Suzuka, Honda’s home track, we had the president of the Honda motor company, we had the head of R&D, chief executive of Honda motors – the three most senior people who are totally committed to winning a world championship and their curve is much steeper than they anticipated, but their aspirations and commitment has not diminished. We are strong partners, we will take the pain as a learning curve, it is the only way to win a world championship. If you are not with a number one engine you will not win a world championship.”

Martin Brundle then asked, Do they need a hurry up like that? Will that be a motivator or damage beyond repair?

“I think that is an embarrassment”, said Dennis. “But I don’t want to make any more of it. The drivers get relatively minimal interface with the management of Honda. They get interface with the technical people. Maybe this is to make sure the message is heard by everybody. I do not condone it, but I am not going to criticise our drivers. I will sort it behind closed doors.”

McLaren have clearly again blown the PR opportunity to present a stable ship and their drivers confirmed for 2016 – given the speculation over Jenson Button’s future. Dennis shared his thoughts.

“The problem is when you are uncompetitive everyone has an opinion and the opinions come thick and fast from every direction. I wish they would just keep them to themselves.

“At the end of the day we have Fernando contracted for three years and Jenson contracted for two. We have three young drivers at various stages of their careers, all doing incredibly well and we know where we are going and what we are doing.

“So I am not going to make comment about our drivers. We did have an option to terminate Jenson’s contract, but I told him earlier in the week that wasn’t going to happen. And I think he was pleased, and maybe I should have told him a bit sooner.

“But I don’t make all the decisions at McLaren and I wanted to check with the shareholders what their feelings were and once I had a consensus on that…”

It appears as though, like it or not, Jenson Button will be driving for McLaren Honda next year, as Dennis reveals.

“The contract is completely intact and is going to be unchanged and I have spoken to Jenson about it and he is happy. So I don’t want to, I never discuss contract matters if I can help it, and even acknowledging that it was an option is more than I would normally do. But the drivers are all contracted and that is the end of it.”

Jenson Button has been clearly advocating he will leave F1 at the end of this season, but Dennis sees a reason for this attitude and perception.

“I could have, I probably should have..[told Jensons earlier]. In any relationship, if you feel that the other party is not particularly comfortable and you are doubting that other party’s commitment, that is not a good way forward. If that doubt is removed things change. Do you want me? Do you care? Do you believe in me? That is the kind of sentiment I believe was in Jenson’s thinking.”

After much prevarication, Ron Dennis was backed into a corner and when asked whether Button and Alonso would be his driver pairing for 2016, he replied: “Yes. What more do you want?”

So the McLaren driver line up for 2016 is apparently settled, but the huge financial hole in their sponsorship programme means activities at the WTC on their F1 project spend on F1 cannot remain at the current level indefinitely.

Further, the moratorium on the drivers publicly criticising the team, appears to be well and truly over.

46 responses to “Fernando hints at leaving McLaren

  1. There’s so much that’s untenable in F1 right now.

    There’s so much that simply can’t continue as it has for a another season without causing damage to F1 and related stake holders.

    Honda, put simply, can not suffer through another season as they have. It’s black and white. They can not suffer another season like they have. The related parties; McLaren, Alonso and Button – by association – can not suffer it.

    Mercedes built the best PU, they’ve gotten two unabated seasons of unadulterated rape out of it. It’s done. A third season, in the manner F1 has been in the last two, will kill F1. The other manufacturers HAVE to catch up, even if that means Mercedes allow it.

    Bernie has sent a message to Mercedes’ commercial people, to their board, to their sponsors. I agree with his tactic. We can’t wait for 2017 or 2018. F1 has to turn into a competitive sport in 2016.

    If Mercedes win again, under a competitive context (a la Red Bull 2012, Ferrari 2003) than so be it. But we can not have a third consecutive season like ’14/’15.

    I hope Bernie cuts them from the feed until they stop cock-blocking anything and everything that could threaten them.

    • Amen my brother. The inferior V6 turbo sound compared to the V12 era is one thing, a lack of competition is another. Mclaren and its 2 world champions needs to be up there. RBR (as much as i hate them) with its deep pool of talents needs to be up there. The Renault factory team needs to be up there. As of now they dont even get a fighting chance.

    • For FOUR years, we watched Seb. win in the RBR with its blown-exhaust engine maps. Why does RBR pick up their toys and go home just because they have a crap PU? Renault was involved heavily in getting the v6-hybrid turbo engines, they should have made good on it.

      When Vettel was winning, all I heard was that the other teams have to catch up. Now all I’m hearing is that Mercedes has to SLOW DOWN? WTF!

      • And what happened? RB had rule after rule change made to pull their aerodynamic advantage away from them. Plus if people had the smarts they were completely free to copy whatever it was that RB were doing.

        Fast forward to today and what changes have been made to pull Mercedes back to the field? Errm….can’t think of one. In fact everyone else is cock blocked from catching up because of the token system. Get it wrong and guess what? You’re stuck with it for the forseeable future. Crazy.

          • The change in the rules for the nose had nothing to do with Mercedes.
            From the very beginning the various interpretations of the rules resulted in hideous designs throughout and the change was made for aesthetics of the sport.
            I do concede that you are correct about FRIC.

        • “Plus if people had the smarts they were completely free to copy whatever it was that RB were doing.”

          Renault should have had the smarts to copy Mercedes. So too should have Honda. But your wrong about being ‘free’ to do this. Blown diffusors don’t work if you didn’t design the car for them. Same with the coanda effect. Likewise changing engine structure is hard.

          Again, it was RENAULT who pushed for the hybrid v6-turbo configuration, and yet they brought the worst engine to the opening party.

          • Renault pushed for a hybrid V4, which they had built and tested. The V4 was started around the same time as the Mercedes V6 and one year before the Ferrari V6. Renault lost with the V6 vs V4 against manufacturers of supercars.

    • …so are we just going to ignore the massive steps forward Ferrari have taken from last season, from having what was frequently described as a ‘leaf blower’ in the back to being a real threat to Mercedes at various tracks? There is scope within the rules for teams to catch up if they develop and improve their engines in a ‘good’ way.

      Fundamentally, all the engine manufacturers have had to develop engines to the same formula. Somehow, Honda have absolutely messed theirs up. That isn’t indicative of anything – it’s just indicative that they haven’t done a good enough job. Whether it’s a combination of complacency in terms of how long they allocated to design and develop the engine or being restricted by the packaging requirements McLaren gave them (Adrian Newey’s #2 designing the packaging for the car, and the engines having similar problems to Newey’s originally super-tight 2014 bodywork – coincidental…?), they’ve made a hash of it and that isn’t anyone else’s fault but their own.

      Essentially this engine formula is like an exam. Some students did their homework and got a good result, but some didn’t. As a specific example, it’s known that Honda styled the layout of their power unit after the Mercedes, but they made mistakes like making the compressor too small. That isn’t anyone’s fault but Honda. It doesn’t mean that The Rules are wrong, it just means that Honda didn’t analyse the existing systems well enough, and didn’t do their homework.

      If a student gets their exam results back and they got a D whereas other people got an A, would you listen to the student saying that the exam was too hard, or would you point out that if it was possible to get an A then they just didn’t put the effort in to be prepared before the exam?

      • This is a myth. Ferrari haven’t caught up. All they’ve done is replace RB as first loser. They can only win in very specific circumstances or when the Mercs trip over themselves, much like RB could last year.

        In a straight out fight in normal conditions they are still close to a second off the pace still.

      • Slice it however you please; feel aggrieved to whatever level you desire by my comment; analogise to your hearts content; but there’s one thing I know… and that is Formula 1 cannot suffer a third consecutive season in the shape and form of the ’14 or ’15 seasons without significant damage.

        My comment, whilst written and motivated off the back of Honda’s turmoil, isn’t limited to Honda.

        After seeing a little over 5 minutes of combined Mercedes coverage during the Japanese GP, a GP that Mercedes placed 1-2 no less, I have a feeling Bernie feels this way too. Such things are not done by mistake. Machiavellian maybe, but Formula 1 cannot take another season of the Silver Arrows enjoying a 0.7-1.5 sec/lap domination with the occasional third rival driver making them look like fools roughly 2-3 times in a season.

        • I am convinced it was at the behest of the poison dwarf that there was limited coverage of Mercedes and Ferrari during the race. However, watching the grand prix was like watching a horse race, with the camera only following stragglers at the back of the field. This type of censorship is intolerable. Viewing figures are reducing year on year, and now we are only allowed to watch the has-beens and rubber band powered cars racing. Surely that is the final nail in the coffin of this sport.

    • I can only reiterate some of the other comments : Red Bull used their trick diffuser for four years and bent the rules to their advantage so that nobody ever truly catches up and all that was ever told to the other teams was that they just had to work harder/smarter. Now Mercedes are enjoying their time at the top because they have the best PU and everybody is slinging rocks at them because nobody comes even close. Sorry, but the logic should remain the same : work harder/smarter.

      Mercedes’ time at the top will go at some point, just like Red Bull’s has. Bernie can keep playing his dirty under-hand tactics to corner Mercedes, if they decide to just walk away his whole kingdom will come crashing down (which is not such a bad thing, truth be known). I agree with Alex that McLaren, Red Bull and co need to be up there, the part that is missing is *through their own merit*.

  2. Aah, the soap-opera that McLaren-Honda have become. Who needs on-track action when McHonda are there to keep us entertained with their shenanigans.

    The cynical gnome in me cannot help but think that Alonso venting his feelings live right in front of all the Honda bigwigs was fully orchestrated by Ron Dennis himself in order to push Honda to sort their PU faster. Alonso is too politically savvy to say the things he said just out of frustration. The guy is cold, calculating and extremely cunning, he knew exactly what he was doing and Ron Dennis being Ron Dennis, he knew that Alonso saying this would cause a shit-storm. Where this all will end though, is anyone’s guess.

    Regarding Button staying or not staying, we had the same thing last year. He has every reason to leave but probably won’t. People kept saying that 2 WDCs are the best people to take a team through the development phase, but this is the pair of Alonso and Button that we are talking about. Neither Alonso nor Button know how to give direction to the development of a car and now McHonda are in the middle of the desert called “nowhere”, quelle surprise. And both drivers have been basically throwing their toys out instead of working out how to take the team forward. Would the pairing of Magnussen and Vandoorne do any worse than the current one ? The experience of Alonso and Button was cited as the main factor to drive the renaissance of McHonda but it hasn’t happened. And now McHonda are not in a financial situation where they can afford to stay at the bottom of the table and pay 2 WDCs so this is all going to be very interesting. Somebody has to end up in tears.

    • Look at how Alonso was able to fend off Max Verstappen. Look at the Mclarens performance in Hungary and Singapore. I dont think the Mclaren chassis and aero package is all that bad and thats the area drivers have SOME (emphasis) input in. Their problems really are mainly the PU (the hybrid stuff). The Honda PU is just pathetic.

      • And, of course, it not entirely easy to develop a winning chassis without a decent and above all reliable engine.

    • I didn’t think about Ron being behind it, but it makes sense. Both use the word embarassement and that’s no coincidence.

      That or Alonso wants to get the boot. Hm maybe that should be: and Alonso wants to get the boot, and Ron wants Honda to say (and pay) it.

    • Button and Alonso are drivers, not engineers specialising in hybrid turbo’d engine development. When the PU is that far off, what do you really expect them to do about it? How many times can they repeat, “The power unit’s a gutless pile of crap. Give me more power”? If Honda had come out with a decent baseline and it was more a matter of smoothing out power delivery and ERS deployment and whatnot, sure the drivers’ inputs could be significant. But Honda haven’t even delivered the basics.

      That said, even if they had a decent power unit, I agree that I’ve never really seen any evidence to support the idea that either of the drivers are any good at the development side of things.

    • I think your cynical gnome is spot on, I was thinking Alonso’s “outburst” was a Dennis ploy.

      Clearly it was no emotional outburst – so either Alonso is doing his level best to be fired/embarrass Dennis or Dennis is using him to pressure Honda with plausible deniability – these pesky emotional drivers, they really ought to behave, I’ll deal with it internally..honest, I’ll sort him out.

      With the history between Big Ron and Alonso I’m actually more inclined to believe this particular ‘outbust’ was scripted by Big Ron. Both are older, wiser and even more devious 🙂

  3. F1 all about money and Mclaren need it. Ron has solid contracts and needs experienced drivers. However neither of them want to be there next year. So big Ron wants to get maximum out of them for breach/termination of contract (in my opinion). FA stating on Twitter that he wants to be there whilst trying to get himself sacked for misconduct. Jonathan Neal seemed to confirm in the press conference that Jenson has had enough as well. Hell with Manor running Merc’s next year it could be even worse.

    • Just thought Ron also mentioned new sponsor this week (yeah right). Wonder if FA has just torpedoed that deal.

      • He also said that despite them losing millions from FOM payments next season, they’ve still got a budget that would allow them to compete with the other big wigs.

  4. –Neither Alonso nor Button know how to give direction to the development of a car.

    I’m not sure any driver could give direction when the problem is (it seems) that Honda built the turbo too small to store enough energy via the MGU-H so they’re doing half the lap 150-odd horsepower down once the battery is out of juice. And they don’t have enough tokens to redesign the turbo so they’re stuck with the problem until next season..

    • Well if you ignore Honda’s failings, the claim has some truth to it.

      Button lead McLaren down a blind path in 2013. If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that the development for the 2009 Brawn was done by Anthony Davidson. And as for Alonso, he’s been leading Ferrari down that path during his time at Ferrari.

      We continually hear how he’s able to drag a dog of a car to finish in positions it shouldn’t be in. So the question is, why is he always in a dog of a car especially since he has been with the team for more than 2 seasons? The designers and engineers take the input of what the drivers want in their cars and try to build it to that specific need.

      After Singapore, JA, revealed how Seb wanted to have a car with a stable rear end and they’re now able to give that to him, likewise Kimi liking a pointy front end.

      So there’s some truth there

      • If I would claim anything, its not that Alonso is uncapable of giving feedback. Its rather his preferred driving style is not the absolute fastest way around the track if I would compare it to Vettel’s demands and style. Its just a theory but still something to wonder about.

      • I guess this is the fall-out of banning in-season. In most if not all sports it is rare that one competitor is the best at everything. So in Formula 1 the best race drivers aren’t always the best to develop a car, in the same way that most ex-footballers make poor managers.

        It doesn’t make them any less good a driver, it just means their skill set is limited to driving. McLaren don’t seem to have got a handle on this yet for some reason. It is probably the case that both Jenson and Fernando know exactly what they want from the car, they just don’t know how to convey that to the engineers in a way that allows them to achieve it.

        It may even be a two-way street. I’ve found over the years that the people who can translate an idea to a working piece of kit aren’t always the ones with degrees but the ones who have an innate understanding of how mechanics work. Maybe McLaren have too many graduates and not enough hands-on engineers who can come up with solutions quickly?

      • I think you can look to Malaysia 2013 (?) when Alonso’s front wing was hanging on by a thread at the end of the first lap. He went past the pits and shortly after drove over his own front wing. I know the team made the call to keep him out – but any top driver should have been able to sense the lack of performance and pitted. Losing 30 seconds in the pits for an unscheduled stop is nothing compared to being out of the race.

        Kimi/Seb are the two best development drivers on the grid. James knows this better than anyone and is why he pushed for Kimi’s Ferrari return and accordingly was instrumental in Ferrari taking up the option next year.

        Every Ferrari Kimi has drove has only improved under his feedback. The only time Ferrari went backwards while Kimi drove for them was when they stopped listening to him in 2008. As soon as they started listening the car went right back to the front. Lets not forget his Lotus tenure as well – fought for the championship until the last few races against a red bull.

        Do we have any evidence of a car under Alonsos feedback improving? His WDC renaults basically had illegal suspension so I’m not sure we can count those.

  5. The other interesting thing I thought that came out of the interview from Ron with SkyF1 was that in relation to losses of income due to their poor performance, I’m sure he mentioned a new sponsor would be announced “next week”… make of that what you will!

  6. I saw the interview live, Ron was on the ropes from the get go, Brundle certainly didn’t hold back, I think he still bears a grudge over Ron ‘letting him go’ all this years ago. But still it was about the most entertaining part of the whole coverage, the race was piss boring so at least we were entertained by Ron’s squirming.
    And I love McLaren, since a small boy, just never really liked Ron though.

  7. With the news today that Renault have signed an agreement with the owners of Lotus to take over the team, would a return to Renault be an option for the samurai?

    • Depends on what the precise clauses in his McLaren contract for a poor performing car etc
      Has Ron Dennis raised the money to buy the McLaren shares to take full ownership ? If he hasn’t then rather than Alonso and Button leaving the team, could we see Big Ron booted out of McLaren unceremoniously ? Something to ponder I guess.

    • “news today that Renault have signed an agreement with the owners of Lotus”

      I understand it is merely a letter of intent at the moment.

      I’ll believe Renault have taken over Lotus only when they actually sign a full contract to do so.

      • “I understand it is merely a letter of intent at the moment.”
        The letter of intent gives the purchaser access to the books. Imho if everything checks out there’s no reason for them not to buy Enstone

    • @fortis96. Big Ron did hint at a new sponsor for next year,could it be Renault paying off Alonso? 😉 oh what a tangled web

    • I wondered the same. I suspect McLaren signed Alonso thinking they’d struggle a bit at the start of the season buy by the end they’d be up there and challenging for wins next year.

      Now it is obvious that isn’t the case they might as well put one of their young drivers in the team. Fernando doesn’t sound like he wants to be there and will be getting to the age where a third championship is unlikely by the time Honda finally get their act together. (Not helped by the engine regs)

      He might prefer to ‘go home’ – he’s got just as much chance of a third title there and will at least be somewhere he is comfortable.

    • i was thinking the same thing when i saw the news that Renault have started the process of starting the buying process.
      But Alonso seemed to indicate in no uncertain terms that McLaren will be his last team in F1.

      I don’t see him backpedalling on that one, I fear we might not see Fernando next year.
      Whilst plenty of people seem to dislike him (quite) strongly, his absence would unquestionably be F1’s loss.
      The stronger the competition the sweeter the victory.

      Alonso was actually my driver of the day yesterday, not sure how he managed to keep Sainz/Max back for so long.
      Don’t think anyone else could have done more.

      Would love to see a Lewis/Seb/Alonso/Ricciardo battle for the title in 2016 with teams able to eek out an advantage at different stages (to be fair I suppose I could add in Nico/Kimi …but who would I be fooling).

      Like Honda, I can but dream.

  8. Alonso is an arrogant scheming prick, but he is right on this issue. You can try to speculate wildly that perhaps Alonso could have a chance to accomplish something great in 2017, supposedly when the new regulations take place, but there is nothing left to prove for him in 2016. Why can’t Alonso take a break from F1, like Mansell did in 1993 or Prost in 1992. Heck, even Raikkonen performed well beyond any reasonable expectations when he returned to F1 to race for Lotus in 2012 after a two year break. Kimi did so well then that it seemed like he wasn’t on any break from F1 at all.

  9. little in human history has truly changed without a bloody revolution. and everyone here seems to agree a change take place. therefore, I am so hoping F1 sees Fred and Jens bug off to greener pastures and Ron get booted. but that is not nearly enough to shake the very foundations. I sincerely hope we do not see Lotus, Red Bull, and Toro Rosso next year.
    that should create the kindle for the revolution where F1 crumbles into the history books or arises from the ashes…

  10. with Grosjean leaving for Haas there would be an open seat at Renault Lotus, right? And I guess Alonso could get the most out of that car, and at least be fighting for a 3rd place podium finish. But with his luck lately, the McLaren Honda could be better next season…..tough spot for the Samurai

    • assuming RoGro goes to Haas – that IMHO is a major coup!!!
      I will understand if Esteban gets snagged due to the Ferrari connection/big bucks connection, BUT, JEV was much better and has kept himself relevant with racing activity. would love to see him with Haas also. that could likely result in one of the best new teams to grace F1 in decades… maybe 6’th first year??

      I doubt Pastor’s new contract means anything unless Lotus/Renault both agree to sign it into the final contract. it would be wrong for Renault to chase the easy bucks and continuity IMHO…
      yeah! Renault is playing games with the P/U re tokens to hobble Red Bull. good for them. well deserved!!! well played!!!

      there is NO scenario where Renault/Merc/Ferrari is gonna give Red Bull their A1 factory P/U ever! not even with multi-millions subsidized by Bernie or CVC! RB/TR are way too potent and capable/funded and have TWO future WDC on board with 2 highly capable backups AND more drivers in the wings …

      oh whoa is Honder… forget about the ineptitude of their ERS. just listen to the ICE unit. it sounds more like my grannies loose farts while sitting on the ancient plastic covered sofa than my 2 to 6 HP mower/weed eater/boat trolling/pressure washer/leaf blower (or VW’s 2 Liter Diesel haha)!!!!!!! until proven otherwise, Honder is just massively stupid and wrong and without a clue…

      would love to see Fred and Jens pack up and leave immediately for ANY and EVERY other racing series on the planet. and then open the verbal floodgates as to the sheer stupidity of F1. have fun for years to come, guys! you are both great and have nothing left to prove in the snake pit…

      nobody should get too excited about Rossi, but it is a start. glad he is getting an opportunity. a bunch more need the same break… plenty of names and way too few opportunities!

      let me mention Manor. true, they have screwed up with Vitolo and possibly with the Bianchi break-by-wire system and are perennial back markers. but to me, they represent the true spirit of the series as seen over the last half decade. I hope they get an up to date Ferrari or Merc P/U for 2016. a Merc with Wherlein (sic) would be awesome !!!

      Williams is doing OK. not a fan of Sir Frank, but that really does not matter. wow. Massa is doing nothing but improving his reputation! with all he has been thru, I am happy for him. Bottas (who stole FP1 from Brunno for an entire year has not proven anything to me yet other than a great ability to run off track to avoid a collision almost anywhere so long as the track is dry…

      I could go on for hours as a fan of F1 since 1962, but let me finish with:
      I got better quality streaming feed and more excitement this weekend watching:
      ping pong
      USA SCCA Amateur Runoffs

      than I have endured watching F1 bullshit for a few decades…

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