WOKING, England (AP) McLaren chairman Ron Dennis wants Fernando Alonso to stop airing his grievances in public following the Spanish driver’s latest outburst at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
McLaren is next-to-last in the constructors’ championship with 17 points despite having two world champions behind the wheel. Alonso is 16th in the drivers’ championship with 11 points and Jenson Button is 18th with only six.
While both drivers have spoken positively about the car’s chassis, this season’s transition to Honda engines has proved highly problematic.
Alonso’s frustration spilled over again at Suzuka, where he finished 11th, one lap behind the pace of race winner Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Button finished 16th.
“GP2 engine! GP2 engine! It feels like it’s GP2. Embarrassing. Very embarrassing,” Alonso lamented over race radio. Those comments were especially resonant as they were made on Honda’s home track.
“I think it was a somewhat misplaced message to make sure everybody knew where we were. But it was unnecessary, it’s my job to make sure everybody’s aware of that,” Dennis told The Associated Press on Thursday at McLaren’s Technology Center in Woking, Surrey. “I’m sure he thought it was a good idea at the time.”
When asked, Dennis would not say if he had words in private with Alonso, who has won 32 races and two F1 titles.
“What I did or didn’t say to Fernando is best left behind closed doors,” Dennis said. “Fernando and Jenson have vented their frustration. Not the way I would prefer it, but of course their exposure is very much to the technical side. I don’t think anyone who walks the planet would not understand their frustration.”
Alonso had made some choice comments before, notably at the Canadian GP in June. At that race, he was asked repeatedly by his engineers over the radio to save fuel as he fought to hold his position against faster cars.
“I don’t want, I don’t want,” Alonso replied. “Already I have big problems now. Driving with these and looking like amateurs.”
Dennis was speaking after it was announced that his team has signed a long-term partnership with sparkling wine manufacturer Chandon. The car’s new sponsor was unveiled to the backdrop of chinking champagne glasses – although Button did not indulge – and amid confident talk of a successful future.
On this season’s current form, even a podium place is a long shot and McLaren has enormous work ahead to bridge the gap with Mercedes and Ferrari.
“I hate losing and it’s a painful experience,” Dennis said. “If you sit comfortably with failure you are going to be a failure. I have no interest in failing.”
The move back to Honda engines had sparked enthusiastic talk of restoring the combination that ruled F1 from 1988-92. But the problems that started in pre-season testing have continued unabated. Alonso’s fifth place at the Hungarian GP in July is the best result of a season where he has retired from six races.
“Rapid improvement in terms of engine performance is just not achievable (this season), it takes time,” Dennis said. “But it’s over five months to the first Grand Prix (of next season) and five months is a lifetime in Formula One. Everything has been multiplied to make sure we are strong at the beginning of next season.”
Button, the 2009 F1 champion, has been with McLaren since 2010. But his last win came at the season-ending Brazilian GP in 2012, and his best result this season was eighth place at the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
Although the 35-year-old British driver has yet to commit for next season, Dennis believes he still has the best partnership possible.
“There’s no weakness in our drivers,” Dennis said. “The most important thing is to never change something in your organization unless you know it’s categorically going to be better.”