Fernando Alonso: McLaren’s 2016 F1 progress can be measured in “minutes”
Fernando Alonso
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  25 Aug 2016   |  7:01 pm GMT  |  67 comments

Fernando Alonso reckons McLaren has made “minutes” of Formula 1 performance progress so far in the 2016 season, and Honda has brought more engine upgrades for the team to use at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The double world champion is currently 13th in the drivers’ championship and has scored a best result of fifth so far this season, a result that came at the Monaco Grand Prix. McLaren is seventh in the constructors’ standings, just three points behind Toro Rosso.

Honda is reported to have spent a number of its power unit development tokens improving its internal combustion engine and turbo compressor ahead of the race in Spa as part of a drive to improve its combustion efficiency, an area where it is thought to lag behind its engine producing rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.

McLaren’s progress in 2016 as already been significant compared to its disastrous season in 2015 when it suffered numerous reliability problems, grid penalties and only finished ninth in the constructors’ championship.

Speaking at the pre-race press conference in Spa, Alonso explained that the team’s improvements could be measured in terms of minutes of race time, not just seconds.

XPB.cc Belgium GP 2016

He said: “I think if we look at the team 12 months ago, we were in a very different situation. We were starting last here using I think the ninth engine, we were lapped two times here last year and also in Germany [and] Hungary, so we’ve definitely made a step [of] minutes, not even seconds in a race total time.

“So definitely we are in a much better position. We are enjoying [that] and the progress is definitely very optimistic for next year as well.

“We are looking forward to this weekend. We also have some updates on the car. We know that Spa and Monza will be tricky races for us in terms of layout and characteristics of the circuits, but we are definitely enjoying our time now, seeing all this progress [and we’re] hungry for more.”

When asked if he wanted to see McLaren’s focus remain on 2016 or move fully onto its 2017 car, Alonso was unequivocal: “I think we want to be world champions,” he said. “[And] this is not possible this year any more.”

Fernando Alonso

Alonso was also asked about speculation regarding his future in F1 beyond the duration of his current contract with McLaren, which is due to expire at the end of next season.

The Spaniard explained that he would consider his position after driving McLaren’s 2017 car, which will be built in accordance with F1’s new aerodynamic rules and the wider tyres provided by Pirelli that are expected to produce a combination that should make laptimes significantly faster.

Alonso also described how the performance of the current F1 cars make him feel “a little bit sad” when compared to the machines he drove earlier in his career, and stated that if the new-for-2017 cars felt more exciting to drive he would consider staying in the sport for longer.

Fernando Alonso

He said: “I’ve said some times already that, next year, I finish my contract with McLaren so I will have to make a decision if I am to continue in F1 or not. I think, in the last couple of years in this turbo engine era the cars are a little bit different to drive.

“I don’t say if it is better or worse – everyone will have his opinion – but I have been lucky to drive 2003 cars, 2004, 2005, even until 2009, the cars were, in my opinion, more extreme. [They were] more F1 cars, so now, when I see GP2 running three seconds away in FP1, it feels a little bit sad.”

“The [current era] cars are heavy, no grip, we save fuel, we save tyres, we save everything from lap one, so it’s a bit against the instinct of the driver and next year is a big question mark.

Fernando Alonso

“I think, with the new regulations, everything will change a little bit. If the cars are fun to drive, exciting to drive, I will probably stay longer and drive more years in F1 but, if the cars are still giving me the feeling I have had in the last couple of years, I will probably stop.”

What do you make of Alonso’s comments? Do you think McLaren will make further progress throughout 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Yes, McHonda are now sometimes less than 2 minutes behind at the end of races…..at a short track for example where they are only lapped once 😉


I wonder if Mercedes pulled a swifty at the start of the new engine regs??? All the publicity about the special split MGU-H design could have been used to hide the fact that the real trick was vastly superior combustion efficiency, presumably Mahle’s Turbulent Jet Ignition, as announced being used by Ferrari from April. Consequently all the other teams have focussed on how to try to fix their ERS, to no avail, when the real problem has been inadequate combustion efficiency. Presumably Illien figured this out along the way too.


Argh, not more “I’ll be top of the tree, next year” claptrap from Alonso. That’s all we’ve heard since he won his last WDC 10 years ago. I suppose it’s part and parcel of all drivers contracts to keep their team in the news, but can we have a new tune, this one is getting boring.
These ‘minutes gained’ are obviously the longer periods between breakdowns. Alonso has joined a development team and sadly for his fans, the Honda isn’t developing as fast as the other engines. He’d probably do better to stop drawing attention to the McLaren, as it’s not going anywhere fast.


Where can I learn how the token system works?


Alonso at his most succinct
Apart from motivating the team and exerting positive pressure, he is also simply right: Honda’s progress has been very significant.

Worryingly, his indictment of the current F1 cars and racing is also, sadly, very accurate.
Too much “saving” of all sorts, not enough of a challenge to drive the cars

I may be wrong, but can anyone recall another era where drivers were complaining about F1 cars not being fun to drive ?


If he can beat his team mate next year, F1 will be fun. He’s just setting up the excuses for next year if the youngster is quicker. Although, if he can learn from 2007 it will tell him, keeping the head down will get the job done against his team mate.


Well for once hes said what we all think but then its probably more politically motivated like everything else he says. 100% agree with the too heavy, no grip, business.! F1 as I loved it ,is about being the fastest everywhere and sliding is NOT F1 – if it were I would want to be be watching Rally instead .How silly the rule makers are because I was saying exactly this & the repercussions of it in 2012/13.

As far him possibly leaving beyond 2017- well all I can say to anyone who says that is – Go Now Please!. F1 is not about only you Fernando! and it could very well be that you will be dropped at the end of 2017 anyway. Great people make us miss them once their decision is made not before and they do not make it about “them” but the sport as a whole.


Less grip equals more overtaking. Of that we can bank on.

What they are doing for next year is a mistake based on Redbull lobbying. This year could be Lewis’ last championship, unless he gets into a Redbull.


@Sebee- we give you a hard time because you go on about 1 aspect of engine. Whereas the issues we have are power, weight, size, tyres/grip, speed & aero.

Besides you know I dislike FA more than anyone in the history of the sport & like I said- Im sure he has other motivations for saying it.


Looks like my comment didn’t make it. All the problems you describe power to weight, size to accommodate a second motor and batteries, all the other points you make can all return to one catalyst – PU. Think about it and tell me bow it’s not the case as Sunday a 802Kg car takes the grid vs 660kg V10 car – both fueled.


Don’t understand why you dislike Fernando so much. Really, if it wasn’t for his shenanigans poor kimi would never have been champion at all ! !


Well, Alonso is just easily unlikable for variety of reasons. He’s more mature and mellow now to those who know him last few seasons only. But for those of us who carry baggage of history, we still don’t like him. Should we carry that baggage of his team destroying ways, or claiming to not know anything about Singapore 2008? That could be discussed.

Then again, everyone can admit that Star Wars without Darth would be lame. So point taken Albert. Perhaps we just love to hate him?


I say it and I get slack and pushback.

Alonso says it and he gets total agreement.

What is it about him that makes you guys take his word over mine that V10s were the bee’s knees? 🙂 Oh….right.


That’s it. I’m going to go to the Collector’s Studio and see if I can get a replica WDC trophy. Finally, I’ll get some respect!



No one takes his word over yours. We all know that’s it’s a load of old cods wallop what he’s saying. He would abandon McLaren yesterday if he got offered a seat with Merc now. But then again, maybe not. Would he want to be shown up again by Hamilton??.
I can understand your frustration. I’m not into all this technical stuff at all. I just like watching man and machine race each other. But this is what we got right now, and as much as we are unimpressed by it, it’s not going away. F1 is evolution in motion. Things have changed all the time, from the very start. V10/8 are gone. Let’s just be thankfull that we saw them, heard them, and lived them. I started watching F1 back in the late 70″s. And have enjoyed it ever since. And thanks to YouTube, I can now watch races from the 60″s and 70″s. Fantastic!
Try and enjoy it why you can. F1 is gonna be different again in 5/6 years time. You seem to have put V10/8 era on a white cloud and think that was the bees knees of F1. I personally love the cars from the late 60″s through to the early 70″s. But hey, that was then and this is now. If one expects to much, then it’s much easier to get disappointed. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your posts in the past, and admire your passion for the V10/8 engines. Good on you. But we have a new era now. They ain’t ever coming back. I say thank god for YouTube 😊
Have a good weekend and enjoy the race on sunday😉🏁


It’s because he calling out all of the multiple problems he sees in F1 at the moment, not just that the V10 engine sounds louder than the hybrid PUs.


Tell me how all the major problems he calls out aren’t caused by PU. Before you blame the tires – second thing we’re bothered by, let me remind you, these PUs have made the cars heaviest ever. You think this has an impact on tires and wear?


I think Alonso speaks for a lot of f1 fans. It’s supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport not an energy saving exercise. The FIA will be issuing energy saving meters to fans next.


Love or hate Alonso – how much better would formula 1 be with him at the pointy end? – we are really missing out as fans of the sport with one of the best not being up there fighting with the leaders.
Not only has the current regs complicated things to the extent that major engine manufacturers are struggling to make headway but they have also scared off potential new manufacturers from entering the show.
Hats off to Merc for their success at making the PU work – but why where regs written that would lead to such long dominance in the first place – this would have been obvious to the those on the inside.


Yes but the reason the performance can be measured in minutes is because Honda made a total mess of the new regs in the first place. I would like to know if there has been a worse engine in F1 history?


Motori Moderni 1985-1987, and others as mentioned, but I would like to add the 2014 Renault.


Plenty, good grief.

To mention a couple: the Subaru boxer-12 of 1990 was both significantly underpowered and significantly overweight; but the Life W12 of the same year might be the worst to attempt to qualify in my F1-viewing lifetime (~1980 on).


Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Lamboghini, to name only three. I am sure there are many more. Just remember that it took Honda three years with Williams before Honda got right. McLaren were presented with the finised product when they took over from Williams. Lets see where Honda are at the end of 2017.


If Alonso was offered a dominant Mercedes drive in 2018 I doubt he’d quit even if the cars weren’t fun to drive.


@andrew m
Totally agree.
It’s not going as well at McLaren like a lot of people hoped. I think it’s going to be another year or two before McLaren can start challenging again just for podiums. By that time he’s finished. Every decision he’s made has been a total fiasco imho. It must be so embarrassing for him. But I would have liked to have seen him take Nicos seat😉👍🏻.
I even felt that Lewis feels a bit sorry for him.


Without doubt, he craves more titles on his CV and he couldn’t care less how they come. But regardless of that, I think it’s quite hard to argue with his general assessment of current F1.

Even Hamilton, who’s in the box seat, has said similar things about these cars compared to the faster ones he drove in 2007-08.


No doubt F1 has lost its way somewhat, it just irritates me when people cast it all down to one reason like the PUs (guess who I’m talking about…)



PU is just the biggest steak to the heart Andrew. It introduced this style of driving, fuel conservation, 100s of engine modes, eco runs, saving everything, killed the sound. It’s the single biggest dump that has been taken on F1. What do you have beside the PU? Tires, no refuelling, DRS, fake sparks? We covered those. Penile implant noses entered with PU. That’s about all there is.


I have to agree with Alonso here.
In comparison to their relative performance from last year Maclaren have taken the biggest steps of any team on the grid.
I’d say if anything they have overachieved this season.


One of the things which seems very rude to us old guys is the way today’s generation seems to think playing with their cell phones is more important than respecting others. Simply put, when someone is paid millions to be involved in the press conference because they supposedly have some talent to drive fast they’d have the understanding and respect for their employer and their employer’s constituents as well as their peers. That’s how it looks, anyway.


Torchwood Mobile

You seriously think someone is being paid millions just to be good with journalists?

That’s not where the WCC pointd are earned.


It has always amazed me with this current formula that the appropriate amount of maximum fuel for a car to carry turned out to be the round number of 100 Kgs. Oh! hang on a second…. it didn’t.

It would appear that for some reason, no engineering principals were applied to this metric at all. Clearly it is not enough fuel for the drivers to be able to constantly push. Clearly a political decision and not an engineering one, and it has taken an edge off the sport.

The 2017 reg of 105kgs will only compensate for the additional tyre weight, so status quo on fuel saving.

In addition the direction given to Pirelli regarding how the tyres should behave seems to have been vague and ill defined, with little allowance for testing up until recently.

Over time the direction from FOM/FIA has become more clear and Pirelli get closer while trying to adjust to car and track evolution.

I fear that 2017 will put us back to square one. The risk is, underestimating the cars and initially having tyres that degrade too quickly, or overestimating and having tyres that last for a race.

Either way, with high down force cars, that likely cant be followed closely, we will still live with fuel savings and tyre management.

2017 rules have largely been made by the Aero elite, and allows the four teams that have won 98% of the last 125 races a safe place, amongst themselves, to compete for the championships.

No one can really out develop all four of the financially favoured Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren in an Aero driven formula.

As always F1 really needs non political management, but as always, it’s the money behind the scenes that talks.


the teams put. 80-90kg of fuel in the car which means more fuel saving. I think a minimum fuel limit would be better so drivers would have to push to lighten the car.


Giving them more fuel allowance won’t really help very much. Because it is such a penalty to carry around at the start of the race (lap time and tyre wear) they will under-fuel to gain an advantage and then lift and coast to save fuel later in the race.


So are we saying that it is always mathematically faster to under fuel and lift and coast at some point?

If so, why the complaints?

What Formula doesn’t dictate this as the fastest time around a track?


I’m starting to think the calmed time gain will be a Saturday thing. Sunday, about same as 2016. I don’t see how more aero doesn’t equal mpre drag and this slower speed. Plus as you said…the fuel.


Fernando is right on the money. 17 year old kids could not have lived with the cars of the past. Not even our brilliant current boy wonder. Drivers are obviously so much fitter nowadays, but even so, I want to see them nearer exhaustion at the end of the race, not dancing on the bonnet.


He seems to be confident that somebody else wants him after his contract expires with McHonda.
I personally think he will struggle to get a new drive after 2017. Not in a winning car in my opinion. Maybe Renault will give him his swan song but just can’t see it happening. Everybody has seen how it is with Fernando when things don’t go his way. The bridges are burnt me thinks. Shame really, because he could have been a great, but will be remembered for other episodes in his F1 career. Thought Lewis backed him up well in the pre race interview. Well done to him. No animosity at all from Lewis. A true champion who does his talking on the track.


People used to say Senna was the cheapest second of F1.
So Alonso must be the most expensive six tenths [0.6 sec].

It was interesting to see Lewis sitting side-by-side Alonso in the driver’s press conference.
Since they first met in F1 Lewis became 3xWDC and Alonso stuck w/ his double.
And Alonso had the strong backing of Banco Santander, could hv gone to any team that he wanted.
What went wrong?


Nothing went wrong, he still has it. But no one has ever won the WDC in anything other than the fastest car…….well if they have…..who is it?
Wrong place at the wrong time (all the time) is the main message from Fernando I’m afraid, and that probably includes next year…….


Vettel had a very poor engine and only had the fastest car starting from front row… just saying.


Super Ego unlike a Samurai who has no ego or emotion. Just a Lords right arm.
Maybe The Way Of The Warrior is more Kung Fu Panda 🐼


MCLAREN’S 2016 F1 progress can be measured in “minutes”.
Next year – however – it will be measured in “peanuts”. xD


“The [current era] cars are heavy, no grip, we save fuel, we save tyres, we save everything from lap one, so it’s a bit against the instinct of the driver and next year is a big question mark.”

Pretty damning summary of the current cars by a man who has driven the lot and this is what supports the argument that any half decent teenager can drive these cars without any problems. They aren’t physically demanding.


NickH, it’s a pretty damning summary of the current McLaren. Nobody else is saving fuel or engines anything like as much as Fernando and Jenson.


Tim, The engines are one issue but my gripe is more with how heavy the cars are and also how average the tyres are. But see how Hamilton agrees with Alonso. One of the best moments since the start of the PU era was watching Hamilton blast 25 seconds up the road in Monza when they were trying to protect from a penalty. That’s one of the few memories I have of Hamilton driving on the ragged edge in a race.


Nick, couldn’t agree more about the crappy tyres, but saving the engine and fuel doesn’t involve going slowly around corners. For most teams fuel saving just means switching to a different fuel map, I think it’s just McLaren routinely having to lift and coast now.


I watched the press conference and, I agree with Alonso completely, Whilst he was speaking, Lewis was nodding his head in agreement about the current cars.

He pretty much said what I feel about the current cars as a fan. I can’t afford to attend a GP, but go to testing when I can and this year was the first year I had seen these new cars, I was so underwhelmed, I left by midday, I’ve never done that before in 20 odd years, usually I’m disappointed when the day is over. When ever you see/hear an f1 car, it should be wow, not oh there it goes, where’s the theatre, the amazement, the wonder, the look of, wow I couldn’t do that in a million years, no wonder they’re struggling to make it seem dramatic on TV, when its not in real life.


I fully agree on all points, Jamie. The sport needs to be taken by the scruff of the neck and dragged back to what the majority of the fans want.


And I find it hilarious that Lewis was nodding.

Has he ever had a taste of the V10s? Not some demo, but at a track. A proper test?


Sebee, Hamilton’s first test for McLaren was in 2004.


That’s what wiki says, but I don’t see Lewis listed on any 2004 test, and I don’t see any lap times from 2004 tests feature Lewis. When did he test?


Don’t worry, exhaust whistles coming your way to improve your experience. Right?


I don’t like him much, but he’s in my V10 club – obviously.


In other words they are finish with the easy part now the hard work starts.
Remember the other japanese car manufakturer that quit…..But hey they just have to fix the engine, the car is fast..


Fully agree with him.

The cars look and sound boring.

Overtaking is mostly artificial and overall car management has become far more important than driver talent.

The rules have been tightened up so much that for the first time in I don’t know how many years, there’s no new device or innovative technology for the FIA to ban.

F1 has gone backwards for almost a decade. Race commentators should quit trying to get the viewers excited about the prospects of breaking current lap records that were set before most of the current drivers even set foot in the paddocks on a race week-end… It won’t happen with the current regs. Maybe next year…

Sad era in F1 indeed.


Yup. This F1 era stinks. PU!


Very good :)!!


Fernanado has said this so many times you’d rightly think he means it. As a team leader he is putting positive pressure on McLaren to create a terrific car for 2017.


How about measured in seconds in
Qualifying on grid the grid?
This new Honda engine better not blow or Alonso will do his nut.


Wait a minute …Honda
NOW !! No… Alonso
Wait two minutes…Honda
Now !! No…Alonso
Wait three minutes…Honda
Now is it ready?…Alonso
Wait four minutes
Come on its ready now?
Wait Five Minutes. ..Honda
Zzzzz Zzzzz
1.5 years on….
“Alonso wake up “
My names Capito I use to look after a Rally team….
Alonso “Is it ready yet ? A new fast engine that actually works ? No I don’t want 4×4 of road capacity!! Or a hand brake !!
Alonso …maybe I should’ve stayed at Ferrari/ Renault/Minardi….I want a Mercedes Engine sing Janis Joplin sing 😢😢😢😢


Guess what RupertDaBear
Alonso already out of FP1 as his new improved engine has a water leak.
“Minutes” you say Alonso.
Assume Mclarens P.R. team will be trying to chuck a blanket on this mornings session !


Wow! What a lot of drivel


My Mum says:
“If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it.”

One man’s drivel is another mans… something or other…


That’s what Alonso said about Honda. Can see what RupertDaBear is on about. Honda has been so out of touch with F1 that it’s difficult for them to gain much in terms of pace and reliability. For every step forwards they take two steps back.
Then again Dah what Mclaren say Honda doesn’t do or scrapes a modicum of success. Realistically Honda may end up ditching this engine and starting afresh in 2017. It sounds like a Dyson Hoover with a blockage. While even the Renault has more poke.


How the mighty have fallen. Like China’s woeful Olympic performance [taking into account the population, facilities and finance available in the PRC] you have a driver a couple of years ago who was frustrated at finishing 2nd. And now 5th places are making him smile! Like the People’s Republic dismal showing in Rio, the Alonso-McLaren-Honda alliance has totally underachieved in 2016.


Nonsense!. You know too well that PU token restrictions rules hugely restrict in season development. That is how crazy and boring F1 has become.

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