Fernando Alonso’s miserable start to the 2017 Formula 1 season continued on Sunday in Russia as he failed to start the race following an engine issue on the formation lap.
Alonso and McLaren entered the Sochi weekend without a point to their name due to a number of issues with the Honda power unit, which has been lacking both reliability and performance.
Alonso fought his way to P15 in qualifying, but did not fancy his chances of scoring points given the Honda power unit’s lack of straight line speed in Sochi.
However, Alonso did not even get the chance to start the race in Russia after reporting an issue on the formation lap with his power unit that ultimately forced him to park up at the side of the track.
The Spaniard trudged back to the pit lane on foot, the disappointment clear in his body language after his fourth straight point-less weekend came to an early end.
“Well, same as every weekend. Nothing new today,” Alonso said of the incident on NBCSN after the race.
“I am trying to anticipate the plane [to Indianapolis] but it’s not here apparently! Have to wait for it at the normal time. [I’ll] eat ice cream.”
Alonso’s last DNS came at the infamous 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will be his next destination as he prepares to enjoy his first IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport on Wednesday ahead of his Indy 500 run later in the month.
Fernando Alonso is skeptical of McLaren’s top-10 chances in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, believing it will take an incident or two for the team to score its first Formula 1 points of the season in Sochi.
Alonso and McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne have endured a miserable start to the 2017 season due to a number of issues with the Honda power unit, which lacks both performance and reliability.
Alonso had another difficult qualifying in Russia on Saturday, finishing 15th as he dropped out in Q2 for the fourth race in a row, but the Spaniard was pleased with his own performance.
“I felt a good qualifying, I felt a good balance on the car,” Alonso told NBCSN. “I was able to push on the corners. The car was grippy and I think we performed a good laps, especially the Q1 lap, it was quite a good one.
“I was seven-tenths in front of Stoffel. He won all the categories to Formula 1, so I think my performance right now is quite OK and I feel very competitive.
“But yeah, we were losing 1.3 seconds on the first straight this morning, around 2.5 seconds on the straights in the whole lap. But that’s what it is at the moment.”
When asked about his points chances, Alonso admitted that a top-10 finish was unlikely barring some kind of incident such as the one caused by Daniil Kvyat in last year’s race, with the Russian driver earning the nickname ‘torpedo’.
“I think the deficit is too much. Also the fuel consumption will be huge for us due to the lack of power,” Alonso said.
“So I think it’s going to be difficult. To be in the points is going to be hard, so we need some help from the guys in front. Sometimes it happens like last year. The torpedo went into Turn 3 and we gained a lot of positions.
“We will do a good start and we will do a good strategy, and we will see what we can do at the end of the race. Hopefully a top 10.”
When jokingly told he should have a word with Kvyat, Alonso said: “I will!”
The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.
Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.
Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.
The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.
Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.
“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.
“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.
“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.
“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”
McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.
The defending champion of the Indianapolis 500 was a rookie and the student in 2016. Now, a year later, he’s a teacher.
One of the cool angles among many for Alexander Rossi as he prepares to defend his win in last year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the 101st running is that he’ll have the opportunity to help two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in his transition to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as he’ll enter the Andretti Autosport team in the jointly entered McLaren, Honda and Andretti sixth car.
He obviously wants to beat him on track – same as the other 31 drivers including his four other teammates at Andretti Autosport in Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Jack Harvey – but he’s not concerned about being a teacher as part of the team’s heralded open-book atmosphere of information and data sharing.
Rossi came to Indy a year ago for what was only his second oval race but quickly absorbed every fiber of information he received from teammates Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Carlos Munoz and Townsend Bell, with Hunter-Reay and Andretti his two primary driver teachers in the process.
Rossi learned among other things how to run in traffic, save fuel and handle the draft – all of which paid dividends en route to his victory in his No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for the Andretti-Herta Autosport team partnership.
And now for Rossi, he’ll have the chance to pay back Alonso for Alonso’s own welcoming of him when he arrived for his first Grand Prix start, at Singapore in 2015 with Manor.
Rossi singled out Alonso and Sebastian Vettel as the two drivers who made a point of helping his transition to a race seat for his first race start.
“It’s limited with other drivers; we don’t spend time together in F1,” Rossi told NBC Sports. “But Alonso and Sebastian came up to me at Singapore for my debut to offer their words of wisdom. He was the one guy I had more contact with than the others.”
Rossi, for the first time, was able to impart the knowledge he’s learned at Indianapolis onto Alonso and said it’s on him and his teammates to provide the same tutelage to Alonso for his upcoming odyssey.
“I was visiting him yesterday at the shop, as we’re walking through our Indy preparations,” Rossi said. “He’s one of the best drivers in the world.
“It’s on us – Ryan and Marco mainly – to help give him the insight they gave me because they’re two of the best at that track. I was always in the best possible position as a rookie, and now he’s in the same position.”
Rossi said it’ll likely be the items away from the driving and engineering meetings that will pique Alonso’s curiosity at Indianapolis – namely, how dedicated the fans are throughout the practice days.
“F1 is very… you’re kept in a box. In some ways that’s good and others it’s not good at all,” Rossi explained.
“The big thing for him to see is how involved the fans are, especially during the month of May. That was the thing that surprised me – it’s awesome to see and it’s why it makes our sport so good to be that involved.
“It can be super frustrating. Say you’re running to take a leak, and it’s a 20-minute process. That will surprise him. He’ll be used to going into race car, pit lane, and the timing around being on track.
“But say it’s 7:30 p.m. and you’re in an engineering meeting and there’s 100 fans there still… that is amazing and incredible… and we’re still plugging away in our meeting.
Fernando Alonso’s quick first visit to the U.S. before this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix continued Monday with a trip to Indianapolis with his Andretti Autosport team, following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.
After a jam-packed Sunday packed with media commitments and observing from the pits, Alonso went to Andretti’s shop on Zionsville Rd. where he made his seat fit for his upcoming first test on May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This was the only time this could be worked into his schedule before he heads to Sochi to resume his Formula 1 commitments in his day job, lead driver of the team’s McLaren Honda.
Alonso also met the trophy he hopes to win as part of his quest to capture the Triple Crown, the Borg-Warner Trophy.
Andretti Autosport is the defending champion team at Indianapolis with Alexander Rossi. Rossi follows Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Dan Wheldon (2005) as winners for the team in the ‘500.
“It’s a beautiful trophy that I would be proud to take home if I won the Indianapolis 500. There are so many familiar faces on the trophy from the past and present that represent the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said, via BorgWarner. “Can I please get a full-sized trophy to take home if I win the race? The small ones (Baby Borgs) are nice but a big one would be wonderful!”
As Alonso is a two-time World Champion, he wouldn’t be the first driver to pull off an Indianapolis 500 victory. Others that have done so are listed below:
Jim Clark – Formula One World Champion in 1963 and 1965, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1965
Graham Hill – Formula One World Champion in 1962 and 1968, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1966
Mario Andretti – Formula One World Champion 1978, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969
Emerson Fittipaldi – Formula One World Champion 1972 and 1974, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1989 and 1993
Jacques Villeneuve – Formula One World Champion 1997, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1995
NBCSN videos from Alonso’s Sunday at Barber are linked below.