Fernando Alonso’s frustration at McLaren is growing by the day.
The Spaniard didn’t hold back in Belgium following a superhuman effort in qualifying that saw him start 10th - with an incredible opening lap, in which he catapulted to seventh.
…before dropping back to 11th - passed on brute pace by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg - both Force Indias - and Haas’ Romain Grosjean - by Lap 6.
It was yet another crushing blow for Alonso, the proud 2-time Formula 1 World Champion using his radio as a PR weapon - dubbing the episode “very embarrassing,” before retiring on Lap 26.
“It was fun for the first three or four laps!” said Alonso. “Then we tried to defend our position, but in the middle of the straights some cars passed us without even activating the DRS.”
The frustration continued at Monza last weekend with Alonso stopping on Lap 52 with a gearbox issue. He spent most of the race upset at Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, despite the Brit penalised for cutting the chicane ahead of him.
For Alonso, it’s a sad end to his three-year contract at McLaren - his trust with Japanese car manufacturer Honda broken beyond repair after being promised a big step forward this year.
… its engine now featuring a Mercedes-style architecture with split turbo.
SOUNDBITE (English) YUSUKE HASEGAWA,
HEAD OF F1 ENGINE PROJECT, HONDA:
“The removal of the token system meant we can [make] improvement in every area for the engine.”
But while Alonso’s outqualified teammate Stoffel Vandoorne 9-3, he has scored just 10 points after 13 rounds. The team’s tally of 11 pales in comparison to the 48 it had at the same point last year.
To retain him beyond this year, McLaren is set to switch to Renault power - despite it being a commercial minefield. Alonso’s last straw with Honda allegedly his failed shot at the Indy 500.
SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Yeah, obviously disappointed not to finish the race because obviously every race you complete you want to be at the chequered flag, but today it was not possible. Anyway, it was a great experience the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself or to challenge myself."
But alternatives to McLaren are limited - with Ferrari unwilling to take him back - and Mercedes and Red Bull flush with top-shelf options.
…while Renault knows it can’t provide a winning drive in 2018 - the same for Williams, which is another team Alonso has been linked with.
It makes for a bewildering decision - says 1980 F1 World Champion Alan Jones - who spoke exclusively to The Inside Line.
AUDIO QUOTE (English) ALAN JONES,
1980 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Well, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he jumped ship, but the thing is where does he go? I really don’t know where he goes!”
It’s a far cry from the heady days of 2006 - when Alonso was on top of his game with the Renault team - taking seven wins and six pole positions on his way to a second-straight world championship.
… and yet to burn bridges with his fiery Latin temperament.
It’s been tough watching a world champion languish in a car that is yet to reach its potential, but F1 history is littered with such examples.
Look at Michael Schumacher and Mercedes - one podium his only reward in three years with the Silver Arrows.
Or Jacques Villeneuve and BAR - the forerunner to Mercedes - which the Canadian spent almost five seasons at - two podiums his prize.
With McLaren allegedly on the cusp of announcing a Renault power unit deal for next year, Alonso may be better off signing with McLaren for one-year, and then playing the open market for 2019, when more seats are available.
In the twilight of his career, Alonso can’t afford another badly timed move.