Fernando Alonso said he had fun during Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after charging into the top 10 early on, only to retire from the race after 33 laps as McLaren’s Formula 1 woes continued.
A miserable pre-season marred by numerous issues with the Honda power unit made Alonso’s flirtation with a top-10 finish in Australia a surprise for McLaren, as was his charge to 13th in qualifying on Saturday in China.
Alonso made the most of the tricky conditions in the early part of the race to battle up the order, running as high as sixth before the track dried and the pace deficit to the rest of the field became clear once again.
Alonso was able to remain inside the top 10 until he was forced to retire from the race after 33 laps with a suspected driveshaft issue, marking his second straight DNF.
When asked by NBCSN if he had fun in the race, Alonso said: “Yeah definitely. We started P13 in very tricky conditions, and we were running P6 after three laps, so yeah.
“I was hoping for stable conditions as they were, because people were spinning off here and there. We maximized our opportunities and when the track was drying up, we started to lose a little bit of ground, but we remained P7, which obviously we were completely out of position.”
Alonso was disappointed that the Honda power unit’s reliability means McLaren cannot yet think about having a clean weekend, putting this down to its lack of running in pre-season testing.
“As we said yesterday, every opportunity that will be there, we will take it. Today we proved once more how hungry we are about getting the result,” Alonso said.
“Unfortunately we are not strong enough to finish the race still. I think the lack of winter testing is a big price that we are paying now. But we will try to improve as soon as possible.”
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.