Fernando Alonso’s new McLaren loses wheel to start F1 testing

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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Fernando Alonso made an inauspicious start to the Formula One season on Monday, going off the track after losing a wheel on his new McLaren on the first day of testing.

Alonso was about to complete his seventh lap when the rear wheel on the right side came off, sending him into the gravel on the final turn at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The session was stopped for a few minutes while a crew hauled the damaged McLaren onto a flatbed truck and drove it back to the pit lane.

The two-time world champion finished 15th in the drivers’ standings last year after earning points in only five of the 20 races.

McLaren is hoping to rebound this year after changing to Renaut engines following three problem-plagued campaigns with Honda.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton is scheduled to drive for Mercedes in the afternoon after Valtteri Bottas gets his opportunity behind the wheel.

Force India, Toro Rosso and Haas unveiled their new cars shortly before testing started near Barcelona.

Testing runs until Thursday. A second four-day session will be held from March 6-9.

The season-opening Australian GP is on March 25.