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Alonso’s frustration grows after third straight retirement for McLaren

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While the hype surrounding Fernando Alonso’s entry to the 101st Indianapolis 500 lingered in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock throughout this weekend’s grand prix, the Spaniard was offered a tough reminder of just how deep McLaren’s Formula 1 plight currently is after suffering his third straight retirement on Sunday.

Alonso qualified 15th on Saturday after being prevented from taking part in Q2 due to a power unit blow out, with the Honda power unit showing few signs of improving in reliability.

McLaren’s entry in Bahrain was reduced to one car when Stoffel Vandoorne suffered a failure on his power unit while going to the grid, leaving the Belgian listed as ‘did not start’.

Alonso pulled off his usual trick of fighting valiantly with his underpowered McLaren MCL32 through the race, running on the fringes of the top 10 and enjoying battles with the likes of Jolyon Palmer and Daniil Kvyat.

A loss of power ultimately caused Alonso to retire with three laps to go, meaning that although the Spaniard was classified for the first time in a race this year, he is still yet to reach the checkered flag in 2017.

“It was so frustrating! We have a big straight line speed deficit, on the straights we lost so much ground,” Alonso told NBCSN after the race

“We were close to the points at parts of the race but we never had the pace as in China or Australia. We need to keep improving to be better in Russia. The power is quite important in Russia. We know the weakness of the package.

“We’ve been working very hard. This weekend we’ve had so much bad luck. All the power unit changes. We aren’t even able to participate. Fast and slow at times. When you can’t even start the races it is amazing…”

Alonso’s anger did result in a couple of radio gems, adding to the list of ‘san Nando’ quotes we’ve been treated to this year.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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