Alonso: Updates drawing McLaren closer to mid-pack

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Fernando Alonso’s hopes of scoring his first points since re-joining McLaren for the 2015 season took a boost during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday as the team finished on the fringes of the top ten.

Since switching to Honda power units for the 2015 season, McLaren has struggled to complete much extensive running due to teething problems with the new MP4-30 car.

From the two races so far in 2015, the team has suffered three retirements and recorded just one finish as Jenson Button finished as the last classified driver in Australia.

Coming to China for this weekend’s race, both Button and Alonso were upbeat about the progress being made by McLaren, and this was justified in FP2 at the Shanghai International Circuit as they finished P10 and P12 respectively.

“It’s been a very positive Friday for us,” Alonso said. “I enjoyed both sessions. We completed our aero programme during the morning, and then focused on set-up work this afternoon.

“All the updates we brought here seem to be working as we’d expected, and they’ve put us closer to the mid-pack. It’s very encouraging to see that we’re moving firmly in the right direction. It’s a question of time as to when we’ll become competitive.

“While it’s been great today to run in the middle of the pack – and I want to be able to maintain that sort of progress – we need to keep our feet on the ground. We saw in the first two races that the others tend to take a step forward in qualifying, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier urged caution upon seeing the team’s Friday results, but was pleased with the progress that has been made since the last race in Malaysia.

“While we won’t get carried away with seeing both cars finish this afternoon’s session in respectable positions, it’s always encouraging to see signs of positive progress,” Boullier said.

“As we witnessed in Malaysia a fortnight ago, we’re continuing intensively to develop and improve MP4-30, and today’s sessions proved to be no exception. Indeed, both Fernando and Jenson were reasonably happy with their cars’ balance, and our engineers will look to refine that tonight.

“Tomorrow, we’ll acquire a much clearer read of our rivals’ respective performance once we get into qualifying. But, for the moment, it’s nice to see that we’re continuing to take some good steps forward with both the chassis and the power unit.”

Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 3a ET on Saturday.

Malcolm Stewart sidelined by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.