Fernando Alonso may have won the respect of many by pushing his car back to the pit lane during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, but his efforts were all in vain as McLaren suffered a Saturday to forget.
After seeing teammate Jenson Button be eliminated in Q1, Alonso’s car came to a halt at pit entry in Q2 with seven minutes remaining in the session.
A red flag was issued due to the stoppage, but in a bid to get his car back to the garage, Alonso began to push the McLaren towards the pit lane.
With the help of the marshals, the car was recovered, but Alonso was unable to head back out due to the problem that had emerged on the MP4-30 car.
However, had the McLaren been drivable, Alonso would still have been forbidden from going back out due to a rule in the Formula 1 sporting regulations that require the car to return to the garage under its own power.
“This afternoon was a pity, because it’s been a good weekend for the team so far,” Alonso said. “We’d made some useful performance steps, and had regularly been in the top 10 in the sessions, so the problems we had in qualifying were extremely unfortunate.
“Jenson had a problem in Q1, and then my car just switched itself off in Q2. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to continue in qualifying if the car doesn’t make it back to the pits under its own power, so that was that.
“Qualifying wasn’t the right time to have these problems, but hopefully we can learn from them for the future.”
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier confirmed that Alonso’s stoppage had been caused by an electrical problem on his car.
“Today, in Q2, Fernando suffered an electrical shutdown triggered by a loose harness connection, shortly after Jenson’s fastest Q1 lap had been stymied by a steering switch software data issue,” Boullier said.
“Nonetheless, tomorrow is another day – and, despite the fact that the Hungaroring is a notoriously inexpedient circuit on which to overtake, both Fernando and Jenson will be doing their level best to do just that, and thereby move forward through the field.”
The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”