Day 2 in Barcelona. 46 laps in the McLaren MCL32 and Fernando Alonso faced the media with questions positively regarding himself, and yes, he most definitely fired a few shots across the bow of the teams engine supplier, Honda.
Stating that he is expecting a big reaction regarding the power unit issues, but reiterating his belief in McLaren as a previously dominant team who have the resources to turn this around, Fernando is clearly frustrated, but spoke positively about how he is in the best shape ever, how the 2017 cars really lend themselves to his driving strengths, and how “it’s time to attack”.
So have a read of the everything he had to say below, not just the soundbytes, and make up your own mind!
On the situation at the moment?
“Let’s say that we are not matching our expectations, and we are not as fast as we wanted to be in this winter testing. On the other hand, it’s only winter testing. I remember 2014, where Red Bull where doing like 7 laps in winter testing, and won two or three grand prix that year, so let’s say that the season is long enough that you can have time to react, but yeah, right now there is now secret that we cannot tell you that we are happy and everything is going okay.
“We are not completing our programme and we are not doing the laps that we plan every morning, and we are missing some information with the lack of laps. There are always some items that go through to the next day, and the next day we cannot complete the programme and they go to the next day, and now, there are only two days left – one for each driver. So definitely a little bit behind schedule, in terms of reliability, in terms of performance, but this is winter testing and this is what this is all about.”
On whether the current situation more like the tough 2015, or more like 2016 where progress was seen?
“I think it’s similar to last year to be honest. In 2015, probably we were even behind what we have done now. It’s similar to last year but probably this year is a little bit more frustrating because of the change of regulations and things like that, you have higher hopes, and you think that you can close the gap over the winter. Definitely we need to improve and we must improve, our situation is far from ideal, but we are a big team.”
“McLaren has been dominating the sport for many years, and fighting for the championships for many years. When you think about a McLaren, or you see a McLaren, you are afraid of them when you are an opponent, because you know that McLaren will sort things quickly, as it’s a big team. So this is what we need – we need a reaction from everyone, stay united, working closely to each other, but definitely a big reaction that I expect from the team immediately.”
On performance – is it just the engine or chassis deficits too?
“Well, the chassis side is difficult because we are not pushing the speed as the others are doing because of the lack of power, so on the chassis, everything feels good, everything feels under control. The car is responding well to changes and everything is working fine. I am happy with the balance, I’m happy how I attack the corner and I’m enjoying driving this car, so I don’t think that we are too far back on the chassis side. We have only one problem, and that is the power unit. There is no reliability and there is no power. I think we are 30kph down on the straight, for every straight, so when you are 30kph down in every straight, it is difficult also to have a feeling on the car. Everything feels good, but when you arrive to normal speed, you’ll know what is going to happen.”
On the lack of time that the team have to resolve the issues:
“This is more of a question for Honda. I have a lot of time, and as I said I’m enjoying it, I prepared myself better than ever. I feel really strong driving this year with these cars, I can use my driving style, my quick input on the steering wheel on entries like in the old days, so I’m really enjoying it. I’m feeling very strong and I’m feeling the strongest here, but I don’t have the power, so I have a lot of time.”
On the issues themselves other than the oil tank, are they still all remaining?
“No, we are improving. I think every lap we do, there is a lot of information coming to the team, and improving the situation slowly. As you said, the oil tank was quite an amateur problem that we had that day, and then from day one, we keep unlocking a little bit of the situation in terms of power and in terms of reliability, but yes, when you do more laps, you discover other things – temperature in the rear caliper or bodywork that is not properly tight – things that you normally discover in day one or day two of winter testing. As we do 40 laps every day, we are like in day two of testing for everyone else, and we are discovering those little things. Nothing to worry about for Australia, I guess. The team will be fully ready to compete in Australia in a good level, and the only question mark is how much power we will have.”
On the lack of power – is any of this due to KERS deployment?
“I don’t know – it is a question for Honda where they are lacking power. I am not an engineer or an engine designer yet, maybe in the future. I don’t think it is a deployment issue because there are many straights here, so in one straight or the other, you deploy until the braking point, and we lose 30 or 40 kph in every straight.”
On the frustration – how does Fernando keep his spirits up?
“Not so much – I am going always anticlockwise. When people go pessimistic, I go optimistic, and when people are overexcited, I’m getting worried! I feel confident that this year, we will be competitive. I don’t know by which point of the year, but we will be competitive, and I want to win races, I want to win the podium, and if everything goes in the wrong direction, I will attack next year. It brings me more motivation to continue and to win because I will not stop racing without a good feeling, and a good result that I think I deserve. If one day, I feel in the car, and people, I see on the corners that they do fantastic lines, they brake later than me, they accelerate earlier than me, they do better starts than me, that day, I will stop, and I will say it’s time. What I am seeing now is completely the opposite, more than ever, this year, this winter. What I see on the track, what I see myself, it’s at the best level. So now it’s time to attack.”
On turn 3 at the Circuit de Catalunya – is Fernando able to take this flat out in the new car?
(Laughs) “Oh yeah, for us, not only turn 3! For us, nearly all the corners are flat.”