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Alonso gives McLaren six months to fix failing F1 car

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MONTMELO, Spain — Fernando Alonso is giving McLaren’s struggling Formula One team six months to give him a competitive car.

If not, the two-time former champion says he will be looking for another team, or even to abandon F1 altogether.

“Around September, October I need to consider what I will do next year, if it is time to find challenges outside Formula One or if in Formula One I have the opportunity to win the championship,” Alonso said Thursday, a day before practice starts at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Alonso is enduring a wretched start to the season. He didn’t finish any of the four races, and hit a new low at the Russian GP when his McLaren broke down on the formation lap.

“(It was) really, really bad for us as a team not to start the race. Completely unacceptable,” Alonso said, while ominously adding that he still didn’t know what had caused the breakdown in Sochi.

Alonso, who has twice won at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, is hoping that McLaren’s mechanics have worked wonders in the two weeks since Russia.

“Let’s see what we can do here,” Alonso said. “Definitely, our moment right now is not the best. Hopefully we finish with both cars and accumulate some mileage. Hopefully, this is the starting point of a new championship for us.”

So much finger crossing for signs of progress appears wishful thinking for a team that has yet to score a point. And Alonso made it clear that McLaren must find a solution if it expects him to stick around next year.

“I am happy with the team but we are not winning,” he said. “If from here to October I see the opportunity to win in 2018, I will be more than happy to stay with the team. If not, I will be happy to talk to anyone.”

The 35-year-old Alonso ranks sixth all-time with 32 wins, but his last victory came at the 2013 Spanish GP while he was with Ferrari. He has struggled with inferior cars since, and his growing frustration has driven him to trading the endless twisting and turning of the labyrinth-like Monaco GP for a run at the Indianapolis 500 on an oval track later this month.

Alonso said he is eager to get in some more practice after passing the rookie orientation test for the Indy 500 last week.

“The driving technique is quite different,” Alonso said. “I think that next week when we start the free practice with other people around I will build confidence and my understanding of what the car needs.”

While Alonso gave McLaren his ultimatum, Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson expressed his concern over his team’s decision for next year to use the same Honda engine that has plagued McLaren.

Sauber recently signed a multi-year deal with the Japanese engine maker to ditch its Ferrari power unit at the start of next year.

“It doesn’t look like the best decision because Honda is struggling right now,” Ericsson said. “But in the long term it could be a good deal when Honda gets it together.”

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…