The spirit at the McLaren team is getting damp. The new car is just not where they expected it to be. The MCL32 was hailed by many as the new possible savior. New CEO, new livery, new engine in the back, and new talent behind the wheel. (Well ok, some older talent as well!)
Days of glory seems further out of reach than ever before. The MCL32 just isn’t performing as the team has hoped. Yesterday, Wednesday March 8, Alonso could only put in 46 laps. Lap times are far behind the competition: Alonso put in his fastest lap 3.7 (!!) seconds behind Bottas’ best time.
“We are not as fast as we wanted to be at this stage. But it’s only the winter tests. Just think back to Red Bull in the year 2014. There went the only 7 rounds and have won two or three races at the end. The season is long. ” the Spaniard tried to relativise.
However there were also some harsher comments “we only put in 40 laps. So we are about where other teams were after the second day of testing. We can’t admit to ourselves and say we are happy. We have not put in the amount of laps that we scheduled. We are missing valuable data. Time and time again, we reschedule part of the program to the next day. But now, we have just two days left.” continued Alonso, referencing the fact the McLaren spent too much time in the garage.
Alonso expected more from the 2017 season. That makes any disappointment even greater. “The situation is similar to last year. However, it is now just a tad more frustrating. Due to the changes in the rules we were hoping to close the gap over the winter.”
The 2-time world champion puts the pressure on engine supplier Honda. “The chassis feels good. Everything works, I’m happy with the balance. It’s fun to drive this car. I think that we too are not far away with this car.”
“We currently only have one problem and that is the power unit. It lacks the reliability and performance. We are 30 km/h slower than the others at the speed traps. But when you’re always 30 km/h slower, then everything feels naturally good. You don’t know what happens when you get to a normal pace”, Alonso admits.
A further jab at Honda came at the question of whether he can drive his car at full speed through turn 3: “With our lack of power, every corner is flat out.”
Alonso doesn’t show any lack of motivation. “I’m swimming against the current. When people are pessimistic, I think optimistic. If they become euphoric, then I start to worry. I am still confident that we this year will be competitive. When exactly, I can’t tell. But I believe that we can be on the podium and win races.”
Fernando has confidence in McLaren. “You know that McLaren can quickly turn the tables. It is a great team. We must cooperate and everyone needs to think of solutions quickly. I’m not worried for Australia. The team is ready to fight at a good level. The only question is: how much power we will have there.”
When asked about whether he would consider stopping: “When the others brake later and accelerate sooner, then I know that it is time to stop. But now, the opposite is the case. What I see is that I still perform at the highest level. Now it’s time to attack. I’m feeling very good. I can still drive the new car to its full potential.”
Honda developed a completely new engine concept to chip away at the competition’s lead. Honda’s F1 project leader Yusuke Hasegawa hopes the new power unit will be at the level of last year’s Mercedes with further improvements planned for the coming weeks.
Unluckily for Vandoorne and Alonso, this simply is a year too late.