There is the high possibility that Spanish driver Fernando Alonso, may opt to sit out the remainder of the 2017 season if the performance of his MCL32 car doesn’t improve.
The team went through the rigorous process of re-inventing themselves over the winter, dropping the MP4 ‘bit’ from their cars name, and also a livery change to orange to remove any lasting trace of Ron Dennis from the F1 teams operations.
One lasting ‘trace’ of Dennis remains though… the incompetent Honda power unit. Dennis was famous for saying ‘you won’t win with a customer engine’, that may prove to be true, but at the moment you can’t even compete with a Honda works engine.
Star driver Alonso is in the final year of his 3-year McLaren deal, and the question surrounding Fernando’s patience with Honda and the team remains. Fernando cut a forlorn figure on the drivers parade before the Australian Grand Prix.
Mark Webber, who has remained close friends with Fernando over the years had this to say: “Maybe Fernando is not there the whole year,” speaking with Belgian broadcaster Sporza.
“Maybe Stoffel [Vandoorne] has a different teammate at some point. Fernando might not do the whole year, you never know.”
“He’s frustrated. He doesn’t even want to finish seventh or sixth. Maybe points for Stoffel is quite nice. Fernando is not interested in points.
“He wants to fight for the podium, so Fernando is mentally a long way away from where he wants to be,” Webber added.
Alonso was hoping the rule changes for this year will also signal a return to the front of the grid for the Woking based team. Qualifying 13th for the opener at Albert Park, Fernando later retired from the race when his car suffered damage to the floor.
On the other side of the garage though, the season presents a great opportunity of learning for the teams other driver Stoffel Vandoorne. For whom Webber believes will only benefit from the situation the team currently find themselves in.
“It’s a tough situation, the car and the team are not there,” Webber added. “But in a way he can still do the learning in the background, so it’s not a bad scenario for him to learn the first season in Formula 1 because the radar is not on him.
“The radar is on the team and the politics and the problems with Honda.
“He has such good pedigree in junior categories, I think there’s still good currency for him. You can’t have two years like this, but he will be okay.”
All eyes next then will be on the performance of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, if Bottas struggles to match Hamilton, or even finish in front of the Ferrari’s as a rear gunner to Hamilton… Alonso may be sounded out for a switch to Brackley as early as August.