Pressure set to mount on McLaren Honda as Alonso prepares for entrance
McLaren
Fernando Alonso
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Mar 2015   |  10:14 pm GMT  |  245 comments

Reports in Spain suggest that Fernando Alonso has passed the medical tests he underwent today in Cambridge, England following his concussion in a testing accident and he is preparing to travel to Malaysia to make his McLaren Honda entrance in next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard, 33, will have to prove to FIA doctors and technical staff prior to first practice, that he is able to get out of the cockpit of the car within five seconds, which should be a formality.

If confirmed, it will put the pressure onto Honda and McLaren, which has started the season in uncompetitive fashion, with a long road ahead on both reliability and performance.

Jenson Button and Alonso stand-in Kevin Magnussen soldiered through the Melbourne weekend with quiet stoicism, but with no disrespect to them, the presence of Alonso in a comprised car and engine package will ramp up the pressure, particularly on Honda, which was so keen to get him on board to lead their F1 challenge.

The engine had to be turned down to get mileage in the opening race, with Button registering 288km/h through the speed trap, 14km/h down on the Mercedes cars and 21km/h down on the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 21.10.59

Alonso knows the shortcomings of the package, having tested it pre-season and will be aware of the timetables and targets for the programme.

But for Honda in particular, it will be stressful having a two time world champion like Alonso being seen to struggle to get out of the Q1 qualifying session. They hired him to drive them on to get results, that’s how they operate and what they expect for their very large cheque. Consequently, expectations are automatically raised the moment he climbs into the car and therefore so is the profile of the situation and the consequent embarrassment for the team.

These are hard yards, which the management hope will be travelled as quickly as possible, so that they can return to being protagonists again.

“I expect the team to be competitive by the end of the season,” McLaren race director Eric Boullier told us. “We have targeted some power, torque and energy recovery targets. We know today that it is working, so it’s just a question of time.

“The biggest challenge for Honda to catch up is not having started a year after (the other manufacturers). it is having taken the decision (to enter) one and a half years ago.”

Equally it will be a testing weekend for Alonso. He will be fielding questions about the circumstances surrounding his accident, about which he has remained silent so far. But he will also be confronted with a resurgent Ferrari team, with every chance of being lapped at least once during the race by a scarlet car. Team principal Maurizio Arrivavene saying this weekend that the team can have confidence that it has taken a significant step and that it can target Mercedes,

“Our objective was Williams and Red Bull, but now we must be a little more convinced about our chances of reducing the gap to Mercedes,” he said. ” It’s just a question of continuing like this, with the right methodology.”

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1

If you establishing the Hondo and McLaren, which has stared on the period will get great fashion of mutually respectful. It also finds and will have to prove that the technical staff ad FIA doctor early to primarily apply for them. There has capable for getting floor of the car within the few minutes with reliability and performances of log road ahead.

2

Whilst this is all about the subjective views of the pro and anti individual driver lobbies, I am frustrated hunting for any clue as to what improvements will be on the McLaren Honda for the next race.

All this chat about turning down the power to get the miles on by finishing, but no suggestions of by how much and whether the engine will be turned up and by what amount for race 2. I can only assume either nobody outside McLaren or Honda know, and indeed they might not know themselves(!) or that the answer is indeed the obvious one ie that they will not be able to turn it up even a smidgeon.

I am looking for the progression but cant get a clue!

3

i miss ayrton senna…

4

RIP Senna. But we don’t need a repeat of the crybaby faces op the podium like Senna and Prost.

5

I know its too early to say but when they said Honda was coming back to the grid I did not know that they meant to say Honda at the back of the grid.

6

Am I the only one who expects the first year back for Honda to be just a learning year? And that the prospects for success can’t be judged by the first race? I mean, it’s like people seemed to expect them to actually be competitive this year. Is it really such a crazy idea to expect nothing more than steady improvement this year, with true competitiveness to come only within the next season or two at the earliest?

7

I think the chassis already is one of the best. And the engine has the potential to be up there with the Mercs. Honda obviously chased performance over reliability. Seems like a smart move to me, given reliability improvements are allowed outside the token system.

8

I don’t think Mc Laren are in such a bad shape. They’re turned down first generation engine is only 5 seconds of Merc’s second generation engine. The car looks to handle great from the onboard. (Going side by side with the force India through the fast chicane tells us that.

Also with drivers more and more not caring about crashing. Alonso’s shunt will make them think twice now as if they suffer a concussion they could be missing a race.

9

Some people are saying that Fernando should have stayed at Ferrari, and I don’t really see why:

1st. The relationship between Ferrari’s top brass and the driver was broken.

2nd. The so-called improvement shown by Ferrari is not really that impressive: had Bottas run the race, he would have finished surely in the top four, thus relegating Vettel to 5th. Isn’t there where Alonso used to finish last year?

3rd. Ferrari is being rebuilt at the moment, so it will still take a couple of years before they can mount a real challenge to Mercedes. It is not like Fernando is 26 anymore, so time matters.

4th. It’s been said that in Australia Honda’s engine ran at 63% of its capacity. The margin for improvement is huge, and if you check Button’s times in his last lap -when he was allowed to use a more aggressive engine map- they’re much closer to the good side of the grid.

Only time will tell if McLaren/Honda was a smart choice for Fernando, but I’m pretty sure that it’ll make much more sense than staying at Ferrari.

10

Ealdfrith, and what do you say now? Alonso and his political games are his worst enemy.

With the abundance of good young drivers available for little money is Alonso on the wrong side of history at 33. Same for Button and Kimi. Taking the financial difficulties of most teams including Mclaren in consideration I don’t see a bright future for Alonso after 2016 in F1. But definitely for Nazr, Vestappen en Sainz. Rosberg future is a good stable no 2 driver.

Time to say goodbye for Alonso, Kimi and Button.

Regadring Alons and Ferrari. He Alonso and his cronies were responsible for his exit at Ferrari. James Allison is the wright man at the wright time. Alonso his cronies and his political games have no place in the Allison era. Thanks God.

11

Looks like a win-win to me as well. McLaren chassis looks good, the engine will get progressively better over the year, so Nando and Jenson look to be in a good place to me. Likewise Kimi and Seb at Ferrari. Should be a great season behind the Mercs.

12

Patience is a word that does not sit well in F1 but this is exactly what every one other than Mclaren & Honda need right now. It was clear from winter testing that they would struggle this year. I dont see why anyone would have any greater expectation than Honda or Mclaren. Alonso should know what he signed up for & thats certainly not winning before summer break. I think the MP4-30 is a brilliant design and will come good in time .The few times it ran at any serious pace it actually looked impressive given its power deficit. If it makes it into the top 8 after summer break it would be some kind of success but the real gains are limited by the averaging use of tokens under the regs.

It was always a big question mark for me why Honda would waste €40m on Alonso when he would spend so much time in the garage rather than on track. Whether or not he will see significant steps in the last few races to give hope to 2016 is the big question and whether he has some exit options should that not eventuate. he will have limited options then as other top seats will be fixed and this latest saga on his health must surely cast uncertainty over his longer term prospects. He must tough it out and see what happens because there is no guarantees 2016 will be any easier. RBR is the other huge question mark right now, will Renault recover & wil it buy into F1.

13

Why dosnt every one give the guy a break,he’s without pound for pound the best driver in f1,and I say that being a big Lewis fan,if alonso wins the title in 2017,I think he’d say it was a great move,time will tell

14

2017? Lol what makes you think Ferrari and Reanult won’t be competing for the title in 2017?

15

Thompson, you can’t really be suggesting that Vettel and Raikonen are responsible for Ferrari’s turnaround? I hadn’t realized that they designed the engine and chassis, which had shown massive improvements right out of the box at the first pre-season test.

James is right, the problems with the Honda PU can only be furhter highlighted by the increased media attention that Alonso will receive. My concern is that this will be more than merely a lost year for Alonso – that he will lose his edge and competitive fire running around at the back of the pack.

Brad

16

Something wrong………..trying to post the 3rd time and it just doesn’t work. After I click “comment”, my comment doesn’t go to moderation:-)

17

New fuel flow saga? Bring it on!

18

Hold fire there sebee, if there’s any thing to this, looks like it could be Ferrari?

19

You tell me this doesn’t make sense.

You pump constantly to not violate the fuel flow rate per hour, and you keep pumping even if engine doesn’t need the fuel delivery. During that time when engine isn’t taking as much fuel, you throw it into a “reservoir” on the other side of the fuel flow sensors, then, vuala! Could even just be a “mode” so you don’t abuse it and pump your fuel tank dry before GP ends.

Looks like it’s being done, and I actually wondered about that last year, but figured it wasn’t possible as there were a few sensors apparently. Well, it’s turning out that it is entirely possible and being done by our dominant Mercedes apparently and maybe even Ferrari.

Isn’t that lovely! CLIP THEM WINGS FIA! CLIP’EM!

20

Hi Sebee. In regards to your earlier post about alonso being kicked out of Ferrari, well even if Ferrari didn’t want Alonso anymore, he had a contract with Ferrari. I am pretty sure that Ferrari cannot just terminate someone’s contract just because they want to, especially that Alonso trashed Kimi last year in terms of performance and points.

Like with every contract, there might be termination clauses associated with payments or performance clauses, but I wonder if Ferrari could’ve terminate Alonso’s contract if he wanted to stay.

What I mean is Ferrari wanted him out, so they offered him money so he could leave. But what if Alonso could’ve refused that and claim his seat for 2015 and 2016 as per his contract? Could he have done that and Ferrari not able to do anything?

I believe the situation was that Ferrari wanted him out and OFFERED him money to leave. Alonso said no, unless a lot more more was given to him. This is why last year the media was reporting he is negociating his exit. Alonso, I believe, had the option to stay at Ferrari and Ferrari couldn’t do anything about it (because his results were better than Kimi’s). So Alonso had the upper hand in that situation and it wasn’t until Ferrari offered him more money, he decided to leave. So basically, he wasn’t kicked, but was bought into leaving.

I am saying that because contracts are not made so a team can KICK their highest point scorer driver just because they want to. They have to buy their exit. They might’ve been able to get rid of Kimi by saying his performance isn’t up to par when you compared it with Alonso’s. So Ferrari decided to keep the less performing driver (Kimi), pay a lot of money to get rid of their best driver (Alonso) and hired a world champion which got schooled by the “new guy” at Redbull in equal if not inferior equipment, assuming Vettel would get new parts before Daniel.

Keep in mind that I am a Ferrari guy.

21

Hi James,

I am wondering why Honda didn’t put the engin package into a modified ALMS car or something similar & put a million miles on it around Susuka? would it have been against the rules last year?

All the best!

22

Time…it wasn’t ready. They have done this in a very short time frame

23

This whole saga reminds me when I was teenager. A friend’s brother put a Corvette engine into a 1965 Volvo 122, first run and the rear axle when flying. LOL – Hope Honda can fix this fast for their sake.

24

Something I found interesting and it had absolutely nothing to do with the article (sorry James), going back to the Red bull mess that cropped up over Renault not getting credited just look how it should be done and how even after only one race we are all saying…McLaren Honda..when did we last say Red bull Renault (infinity.. And beyond)

25
Kieran Donnelly

They’ll just need to follow Toto’s words and get their heads down to work through it. As I see it, they might as well say penalties be-damned and go through as many engines as they need because it’s likely that they’ll be too far behind before they can make proper progress anyway. Probably one of the most interesting stories to watch this season. Hoping Malaysian race can give us a bit more to live for on the track after Oz borefest. Fingers crossed!

26

There was a good interview on Sky with Jenson B about Honda, in it he was very positive about the relationship between the 2 teams and seemed very confident that Honda would make bigger strides once they got the fundamentals right.

In particular he noted that they would feedback to Honda “Improve X” and in the next test what they had asked for had been delivered, he also noted the chassis was far superior to what he had last year.

It seems to me as if by the end of the year McLaren could be back near the front, they have the right mentality, get the basics right, don’t worry about the first half of the season, use it as testing to make the engine great, before pushing in the latter half of the season for results.

To get to where Merc are at the moment takes years of preparation and laying the correct groundwork, you can’t just fix it overnight.

27

Not to be negative, but What else do you expect anybody in the team to say? that they are doomed? They no have main sponsors and are both McLaren and specially Honda top brands, obviously Button won’t be in any interview saying that Honda an McLaren had made a terrible job.

28

Well… Saying _nothing_ might be preferable.

When the team repeatedly and frequently goes out of its way to make bright, fluffy, not-quite-believable promises, it only makes them seem a) desperate and b) dishonest. At least we haven’t (to my knowledge) been subjected to an overdose of Ronspeak recently. 😉

29

To confirm that, here is F1 official website analysis of the the telemetry data:

“Despite struggling for outright pace, the Briton ended the race with the fourth-highest Cornering Rating, behind only Massa, Hamilton and Rosberg. Indeed, on Lap 23 he almost matches Hamilton, and is ahead of Rosberg…the cornering data from Australia suggests the MP4-30, while uncompetitive overall, is not actually surrendering too much speed in the corners relative to other drivers – which hints at it having an inherently good level of downforce.”

It appears if Honda fixes the PU issues, they should get a competitive package.

30

Yes, and I hope they get on top of the PU. They will presumably have lots of “reliability” upgrades, and taking engine penalties shouldn’t be an issue. Hopefully they are able to push Mercedes by the second half.

31

How did it go in qualifying? Oh, it came last & second last.

In the race everyone tuns the revs down cos this is Formula Endurance now.

32

Looking forward to Alo Vs JB. If this gets interesting, and if they get lengthy coverage on the races, racing each other, the pressure on Mc and Honda will minimize to some extent. They still have to make the cars competitive eventually.

All’s irrelevant if Alonso out-qualifies, out-races, and has the worse reliability of the two cars. This will truly be pressuring to Mc+Honda.

If Button beats Alonso, however, the pressure will be on Alonso.

If both are fighting more or less evenly, game on.

I won’t rule out Button straight away. And, these days he’s on a mission to stick it to the man. It was awesome to see him not give space to Perez (he wasn’t required to then) in Melbourne. No more Mr. Nice Guy by default. Go Button!

33
Fernando 150% Alonso

If Button beats Alonso then is because, of course Alo is overrated. If is the opposite, is of course, because McHonda have constructed the car around Alonso, and only he is the only human being able to drive it 😉

34

Er no!

It will be on merit.

Alonso has always has N01 status.

The only time he didn’t was at Mclaren and look how that turned out.

If he smashes Button it won’t be the car, it will be his skill.

[mod]

35

James, any reason why there currently isn’t an article on the cancellation of the German GP? I’m sure readers comments on this issue would be very interesting to read following on from the growing levels of disenchartment amongst F1 fans that is being covered in various forums.

36

We did it earlier in the week, with Lauda quotes etc

It was a formality when FIA announced it

37

What are the chances of Kimi Raikkonen retiring at the end of this season and going on to replace Jeremy Clarkson as Top Gear host on a permenant basis from 2016?

38

But for Honda in particular, it will be stressful having a two time world champion like Alonso being seen to struggle to get out of the Q3 qualifying session.

This should be ‘Q1’, I think.

39

Thanks, amended

40

I think the article is the wrong way round ref Alonso.

Its not McLaren/Honda who are under pressure – their stall was set out before testing commenced – it’s Alonso.

Can he deliver what Hamilton and now Kimi and Vettel appear to be delivering. I.e point McHonda in the right direction ‘carrying’ the team to the sharp end of the grid.

That’s the real question – funny even before he turns a wheel in anger fingers a pointing at the ‘teams’ performance just in case things don’t work out.

Nice to hear Ferarri’s fighting talk – they know they have a quick car they’ve seen the numbers – things just got a whole lot more interesting.

Funny this time last year the mood was negative towards the 2014 season, look how it turned out.

Exciting times…….

41

Do you really believe it was Vettel that was critical at RedBull??????

Ever heard of Adrian Newey………..titles with Williams, Mclaren, and RBR

Ask any team principal who he would prefer in his team it would be Newey NOT Vettel

42
Alastair Purves

I’m tired of all this talk of drivers “carrying teams to the front of the grid”. It seems to have it’s roots in Schumacher’s term at Ferrari. Most forget that it took Michael 4 yrs to accomplish his goal there. Hamilton, Raikkonen, and especially Vettel have next to nothing to do with their respective teams technical resurgence. It all began before they joined up, and apart from personal preferences in the behavioural characteristics of the car, drivers do not have input into the fundamental design process.

43

Spot on!

44

A voice of reason in a techno-geek wilderness.

You’ll probably upset a lot of people here –

But stay true, good fellow.

45

Driver input is critical.

Damon Hill@Williams Coultard was meh, Villneuve was so so.

Mika Hakkinan@McLaren Coultard was nowhere.

Vettel@RedBull from field filler to 4years of domince.

Don’t underestimate driver input.

46

Are you trying to use logic and common sense? Oh my, how unfashionable!

47

Why do I get a feeling that Honda will be more worried about the whole situation not because Alonso is about to step into a highly uncompetitive package highlighting their plight, but because Alonso almost certainly will have some performance clauses in his contract which will allow him to exit at the end of this year (or perhaps next) unless Honda can improve massively.

The only question is, which team does Alonso have left to go to! Red Bull looks as miserable as Mclaren for now. Mercedes will likely have no seats next season and Ferrari are not going to take him back under any circumstance!

48

you wouldn’t have expected McLaren to have taken him back under any circumstance!

49

face the fact , alonso has nowhere to go and honda will be well aware of that !

hamilton now controls the market , and is playing his cards well about a new mercedes contract by waiting to see how well honda do before signing again , and having seen how they have started that signature will be on the paper pretty shortly now !

so honda worried ? not a chance

50

Hamilton doesn’t control it. it is almost always the the driver we least expect

51

I think if I was Alonso I would rather be driving that Minardi he drove so well back in 2002. At least he was at the start of his career at that stage. I doubt he will last the season with McLaren. I also kind of wish they did not keep Button on now. He could have concentrated on other things in life.

52

Alonso drove for Minardi in 2001. Webber drove for Minardi in 2002.

53

“The biggest challenge for Honda to catch up is not having started a year after (the other manufacturers). it is having taken the decision (to enter) one and a half years ago.”

Can someone explain what this is supposed to mean?

54

They only decided to do an F1 engine in 2013.

The others have been working on theirs since 2010/11

55

James,

I guess only Mercedes started in earnest back then with a separate fully funded R & D.

Renault and Ferrari started much later as they were much more focused on the title battles between 2010 and 2014, and did not allocate adequate R & D resources to their hybrid engine/recovery development.

Hence their pathetic forms since 2014.

I am sure what RBR and Horner find it hard to take that Renault pushed for hybrid technology and even made their stay in F1 dependent upon it, and then came out with such a pathetic effort.

56

James can i ask for your opinion on how and company as big as Honda are can get there engine so badly wrong?

cause reports i have seen said buttons engine was running at 30/40% power or it would have blown up like k-mags did, this must be very embarrassing for them.

57

alas Alonso romanticising about Senna in a McHonda has got him into this awful mess. He should have stuck to treading his own path and stayed at Ferrari.

58

I’m not sure he had that luxury – Mattiacci decided to set himself against Alonso and it would have been difficult to change the path which led to Alonso’s departure

59

There is a huge story that is still not public ! Please give us the inside story James !! Why did mattiaci decided to set himslef against alo ? did he feel he was blocking change ? Was he stirring development in a bad direction but being the leader no one dared to oppose his demands ?

Is that true that Pat Fry was protected by alonso (Can a driver protect a technical director ?)

Did Alo leave because he did not trust Allison to be able to turn things around? (and so far it seems like a mistake)

thnaks, I am sure we all want to know what really happened at Ferrari last year that led to ALO departure

60

Absolutely !-I’m pretty sure the word “choice” should replace “luxury”..

61

Everyone acts like he left.

They signed Vettel and had Kimi on the books. Ferrari isn’t Sauber! No 3 into 2 seats. Alonso was kicked out people. And I for one say bon voyage. 5 long years I had to keep my awesome flashy Ferrari Pumas in cold storage. But they are back baby! And feel so good.

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