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Alonso’s frustration grows after third straight retirement for McLaren

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While the hype surrounding Fernando Alonso’s entry to the 101st Indianapolis 500 lingered in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock throughout this weekend’s grand prix, the Spaniard was offered a tough reminder of just how deep McLaren’s Formula 1 plight currently is after suffering his third straight retirement on Sunday.

Alonso qualified 15th on Saturday after being prevented from taking part in Q2 due to a power unit blow out, with the Honda power unit showing few signs of improving in reliability.

McLaren’s entry in Bahrain was reduced to one car when Stoffel Vandoorne suffered a failure on his power unit while going to the grid, leaving the Belgian listed as ‘did not start’.

Alonso pulled off his usual trick of fighting valiantly with his underpowered McLaren MCL32 through the race, running on the fringes of the top 10 and enjoying battles with the likes of Jolyon Palmer and Daniil Kvyat.

A loss of power ultimately caused Alonso to retire with three laps to go, meaning that although the Spaniard was classified for the first time in a race this year, he is still yet to reach the checkered flag in 2017.

“It was so frustrating! We have a big straight line speed deficit, on the straights we lost so much ground,” Alonso told NBCSN after the race

“We were close to the points at parts of the race but we never had the pace as in China or Australia. We need to keep improving to be better in Russia. The power is quite important in Russia. We know the weakness of the package.

“We’ve been working very hard. This weekend we’ve had so much bad luck. All the power unit changes. We aren’t even able to participate. Fast and slow at times. When you can’t even start the races it is amazing…”

Alonso’s anger did result in a couple of radio gems, adding to the list of ‘san Nando’ quotes we’ve been treated to this year.

F1: Valtteri Bottas urges Lewis Hamilton to clear up Mercedes future and sign

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MONACO (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is urging Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract, even though his own future is uncertain.

Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to give him a new deal for next year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is stalling on signing a new one even though an offer is in place. Hamilton was again asked about his contract situation on Wednesday, and maintains he’s in no hurry.

“There isn’t any sticking point. There just hasn’t been any rush,” Hamilton said. “There’s no discussion with anybody else, there’s no consideration for anybody else, it’s just (me) taking my time.”

But Bottas would like Hamilton’s future cleared up.

“For sure I would. First of all, I would like to stay here. That is my goal for the long term. It would be nice if Lewis wants to stay and finds an agreement,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I enjoy working with him, I enjoy the challenge he gives me. I enjoy the fact he’s four-time world champion and at the moment I’m none. It makes me try harder to be better.

“It wouldn’t change my mind that I want to stay here, but I think we work well together,” he added.

Last season was their first together. Bottas was drafted in from Williams as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired. He won three races but he stood out more as the ideal support driver as Hamilton reclaimed the F1 title.

Bottas understands Mercedes expects improvement.

“We had a chat before the season and naturally we expect performance gains compared to last year, being closer to Lewis,” Bottas said. “That’s what you need to do in the second season.”

However, Bottas says he has not been set a specific target in terms of points or where he finishes overall.

“There’s no magic number,” he said. “There’s no clause or anything, so it’s how the team feels I’m performing.”

Bottas finished third overall last year behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

He is in the same overall position – 20 points behind Vettel and 37 adrift of Hamilton – heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver would be closer if not for a dramatic finish at the Azerbaijan GP last month. With victory seemingly guaranteed, he sustained a tire puncture and ended up with no points. He bounced back with a fine drive for second place in Spain two weeks ago.

“I feel like I’ve met my performance targets. Pace-wise I’m on the level I need, but result-wise I’m not happy,” Bottas said. “It’s been strange. But I know if I keep improving very good things will come.”

He has faced a considerable amount of criticism with observers questioning whether he can compete at the top level. Yet driving under the constant pressure of having a point to prove has also made him more resilient.

“For sure it makes you tougher and better,” he said. “From each difficult weekend, I feel I’ve been able to turn it (around).”