McLaren’s Alonso ‘surprised’ by criticism

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Alonso will start the Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid as a result of Honda fitting a new, upgraded engine to his car in first practice

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says he is “surprised” by claims he retired a healthy car at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard emphasised the ways he had shown his commitment to McLaren despite an uncompetitive and unreliable car.

He said: “It seems people forgot I have been racing here for three years and fighting (at the back of the grid).

“I gave my maximum at starts. I pushed the car uphill in Hungary to try to get another chance in qualifying. I tried to race with a broken rib in Bahrain.”

He added: “When I read that, I think people are not very concentrated on the real things that happen.”

McLaren’s engine partner Honda has said it could find no problems with the power unit Alonso said caused his retirement in Spa.

Alonso insisted he had seen worrying signs with the engine during the race.

He said: “I had a few issues on the power unit in the three or four laps before the retirement.

“I had this a couple of other times before when some sensors start failing and some things started feeling wrong and then it went immediately to engine blow-up.

“So this time, after having those first problems, we retired the car and they checked the whole engine and it seems like everything is fine on the look they did.

“So we will try to fit that engine (on Friday) for second practice. If it blows up, we will change it obviously. If it keeps holding probably we keep using it.”

Alonso said he saw worrying signs with the engine during the race in Belgium

More grid penalties for Alonso

Alonso will start the Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid as a result of Honda fitting a new, upgraded engine to his car in first practice. Both McLaren drivers have already used well over the number of engines permitted in a season.

The idea is to run it briefly at Monza and take the grid penalty at this race so it is available for the next event in Singapore, where the team can expect a more competitive weekend because the track does not expose the lack of power from the Honda engine as much.

He is likely to be joined at the back of the grid by Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who both said they were expecting penalties for using too many engines, although this will not be officially confirmed until Friday.

Alonso’s future up in the air

Alonso also denied claims he will definitely not stay at McLaren next year if Honda remain their engine supplier.

McLaren are trying to sort out a deal whereby they drop Honda and use Renault engines next year but it is not clear whether this will come off.

Alonso is out of contract at the end of the season and last weekend in Belgium, Honda’s F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa told BBC Sport that Alonso had “no confidence” the Japanese company could produce a competitive engine in 2018 after three years of poor performance. Hasegawa said it was his job to convince Alonso otherwise.

Alonso said: “I have absolutely not decided. More than anything I am not bigger than a team. We know things are not going in the right direction, we are not competitive enough after three years. We all want to change that situation.

“We are 1,000 people in McLaren-Honda working for the championship and I am probably the least important one because if it is not here I will try to see somewhere else but for McLaren it is crucial to improve that situation. They are the first who want to improve that.

“We are McLaren, the second best team in the history of the sport statistically, the team that won most times here in Monza. So we all want the same thing, to be competitive.”

Fernando Alonso has only completed three grands prix this year (Spain, Azerbaijan and Hungary)

A return to Renault?

However, Alonso did appear to rule out one option for 2018 – a return to Renault, where he won his two world titles.

“No,” he said. “Renault will always be in my heart. I have a lot of connections with Renault. But in terms of racing, so far right now I am extremely happy here and I believe here we could have the package to win the championship.

“Renault – as they already said this week – think next year they will not be ready yet so they are honest as well.”

He hinted that his first option was to stay with McLaren, as long as they can get a competitive engine.

“We do have now some ingredients to be champions,” Alonso said. “The team did improve a lot in the last three years from when I arrived here.

“We have the talent in the team. We have the facilities. We have everything. We just miss to be more competitive, which is the most important thing. We will see what the numbers are saying for next year and after that we will make a decision.”

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