Alonso has fun in Chinese GP, but fails to finish as McLaren woes continue

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Fernando Alonso said he had fun during Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after charging into the top 10 early on, only to retire from the race after 33 laps as McLaren’s Formula 1 woes continued.

A miserable pre-season marred by numerous issues with the Honda power unit made Alonso’s flirtation with a top-10 finish in Australia a surprise for McLaren, as was his charge to 13th in qualifying on Saturday in China.

Alonso made the most of the tricky conditions in the early part of the race to battle up the order, running as high as sixth before the track dried and the pace deficit to the rest of the field became clear once again.

Alonso was able to remain inside the top 10 until he was forced to retire from the race after 33 laps with a suspected driveshaft issue, marking his second straight DNF.

When asked by NBCSN if he had fun in the race, Alonso said: “Yeah definitely. We started P13 in very tricky conditions, and we were running P6 after three laps, so yeah.

“I was hoping for stable conditions as they were, because people were spinning off here and there. We maximized our opportunities and when the track was drying up, we started to lose a little bit of ground, but we remained P7, which obviously we were completely out of position.”

Alonso was disappointed that the Honda power unit’s reliability means McLaren cannot yet think about having a clean weekend, putting this down to its lack of running in pre-season testing.

“As we said yesterday, every opportunity that will be there, we will take it. Today we proved once more how hungry we are about getting the result,” Alonso said.

“Unfortunately we are not strong enough to finish the race still. I think the lack of winter testing is a big price that we are paying now. But we will try to improve as soon as possible.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.