McLaren wins raft race, loses point, sees Alonso in stands at Canada (VIDEO)

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It’s been a roller coaster 24-plus hours for McLaren Honda, as it seemingly has been for most of this 2017 Formula 1 season.

Fernando Alonso entered the weekend saying McLaren would need to be winning by September for him to continue into 2018, then said “why not?” about an IndyCar bow during Saturday night’s telecast from Texas. Further comments from McLaren Technology Group executive director Zak Brown described the McLaren and Honda relationship at a ‘fork in the road’ and almost at the point of no return.

On track, Alonso lost a bit of time in Friday’s first practice with a hydraulic issue, and he then qualified 12th on Saturday. Stoffel Vandoorne was 16th.

Joy on Saturday evening and more heartbreak on Sunday afternoon followed at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as part of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

BRIEF JOY ON SATURDAY IN F1’S MONTREAL ‘RAFT RACE’

For a brief moment on Saturday night though, there was joy in the McLaren Honda world. Formula 1’s new owners Liberty Media have sought to bring back some fun or revived items to the F1 paddock and one of them was the usual mechanics’ “raft race” that takes place in the river basin behind the paddock on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal.

McLaren Honda for once in 2017 could say they won – and forget for a moment that neither Mercedes nor Ferrari took part. McLaren Honda still beat the rest of the competitors. Here’s a quick video of that and some still shots of the glory.

NEAR POINT COMES UNDONE, AGAIN

Alonso was poised to score his elusive first point of the season, running 10th in the waning stages of the rest. Both Toro Rossos had retired as had Max Verstappen’s Red Bull; meanwhile Alonso was ahead, on track of potential points scorers Haas with both its cars and Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, which are usually in-and-around the minor placings.

Alas, Alonso stopped with just four laps to go and radioed in, once again, “engine.”

It cost Alonso a point and was his third stoppage on track inside the final 10 laps this season, joining Australia and Bahrain. He of course skipped Monaco to race in the Indianapolis 500 – where he also stopped with a Honda engine failure – but in six Grand Prix appearances this year, he has a 12th at the Spanish Grand Prix, four DNFs and one DNS (Russia).

Today, after Alonso retired, rather than wallow in agony (publicly anyway) he headed instead to the grandstands in Montreal to be with the fans. He wanted to throw his gloves from the track, but decided to mingle with the people instead.

“Well, I thought to give the gloves to the guys there! The grandstand was too far. So I won’t get there if I throw them. So I go a bit closer!” Alonso told NBCSN’s Will Buxton.

“Once I was there, I couldn’t go back to the bike! It was fun. We have so much support from the fans in Canada. I felt we needed to give something back.”

Asked whether his going into the stands was aided by his IndyCar odyssey, Alonso responded, “probably.”

He also added of the day itself, “Yeah I guess, for the guys (it hurts). Tenth place won’t change my life. After 16 years it’s 1 point. But they’re working day and night preparing every single day. You want to do the best result for them. So frustrating. Jenson had the power unit change in Monaco so he was starting last. So now we start last in Baku. It’s quite difficult.”

Vandoorne finished 14th. The other high for the weekend for Alonso and McLaren was a garage meeting with Michael Douglas, who was along for a photo of Alonso being presented with a picture of being first at Indianapolis when he first took the lead there on Lap 37, as he’d requested.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.