Fresh penalties for Alonso and Button take McLaren’s grid drop to 50 places

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Without even checking the record books, you can be sure that McLaren’s combined total of a 50-place grid drop for the Austrian Grand Prix is a new Formula 1 record.

Perhaps the more pressing question is “how is that even possible?”

Well, this is modern-day Formula 1 for you. So let’s run from the top.

We knew yesterday that Fernando Alonso had been hit with a 20-place grid penalty after taking a number of new power unit components including a new internal combustion engine, a new MGU-H and a new turbocharger.

However, the Spaniard suffered yet another stoppage out on track during the final free practice session on Saturday, which turned out to be a transmission issue.

As a result, his car required a brand new gearbox, resulting in another five place penalty and taking his overall grid drop to 25 places.

Jenson Button – not wishing to be outdone – has also got to serve a 25-place drop after McLaren made a number of changes to his power unit overnight. As per the stewards’ report:

1) 10 grid positions for 6th TC (1st 6th element used)
2) 5 grid positions for 6th MGU-H (1st remaining 6th element used)
3) 5 grid positions for 5th ICE (1st remaining 5th element used)
4) 5 grid positions for 5th MGU-K (1st remaining 5th element used)

So 10 + 5 + 5 + 5 = 25, meaning that after qualifying 17th, Button will start 42nd for the race tomorrow, right?

No. Of course, with only 20 cars on the grid, he can only serve three places. As a result, he will have to serve a ten second stop/go penalty during tomorrow’s race, as per the regulations.

“I was one of the first to cross the finish line in Q1, so everyone had a bit more time to improve while the circuit was drying,” Button said. “But I enjoyed it out there – it was actually a lot of fun. When the surface was tricky and unpredictable, I was looking pretty good.

“Once the circuit dried – and other people found their feet – I was only able to do what the car could do. I think there could have been a chance of getting into Q3 if the conditions had remained mixed.”

“I also thought I was going to have a good battle with Fernando tomorrow, but we’ll get different penalties so I won’t be racing him. This just hasn’t been my weekend.”

Alonso qualified 15th at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday, meaning that he can go back four places by dropping to P19 ahead of Button. Therefore, he too will have to serve an in-race penalty.

“The car felt good today – the new aero package means it feels more competitive in the corners,” Alonso said after qualifying. “It’s just a bit unfortunate that this is a high power-effect circuit, so we can’t maximise everything. Still, we’re moving in the right direction, which is very positive.

“We’ve had a lot of problems throughout free practice, so we definitely need to improve reliability, and we’ll have some extra penalties when the race starts. It’s really a learning weekend for us – we’re running the cars in different configurations – but hopefully that will increase our learning.”

Just to put things into perspective, here’s a stat about how McLaren’s penalty compares to its recent misdemeanors.

The Austrian Grand Prix is live from 7:30am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra on Sunday.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.