F1 drivers have turned into PR robots these days. They are given specific instructions as to what to speak and what to refrain from.
That’s why perhaps it isn’t surprising to hear McLaren-Honda personnel speak of ‘progress’ each race, irrespective of the fact that the team makes a step forward or not. But no matter what they say, every single employee at McLaren-Honda is disappointed with how things have gone this year. And the matter reached its head at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday with Fernando Alonso openly venting his frustration when asked to save fuel.
"I don't want. I don't want,'' Alonso said over the team radio during the race. "Already I have big problems now. Driving with this and looking like amateurs. So I'd like to race and then I concentrate on the fuel."
Up till that point, the race had not gone according to Alonso’s plan with the Spaniard only going backwards from his 13th place grid spot. The Honda engine’s horsepower deficit translates into lack of straight line speed with Alonso clocking only 326 km/hr at the speed trap as compared to 340 km/hr for the ‘fastest’ Mercedes powered car of Romain Grosjean(during qualifying).
On a power track like Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, that weakness was underlined and both drivers eventually retired from the race with power unit related issues. This comes despite Honda using two of its available engine tokens on reliability in the run up to the Canadian Grand Prix.
Contrasting Button’s Monaco points with double DNF in Canada
While Button’s eighth place finish in Monaco was a sigh of relief for McLaren, the result can be attributed to configuration of the the tight and twisty street circuit. When a low-downforce track was thrown in Honda’s weakness became evident and both Alonso and Button trailed in the bottom of the midfield pack before retiring from the race.
Alonso speaks out
Alonso’s open dismay is of particular significance as it's the first time someone from the team has spoken about the nightmare situation McLaren-Honda finds itself in. Honda have simply underestimated the challenge of designing the complex modern F1 power units while the opinion is divided on the competitiveness of the McLaren chassis.
Alonso left Ferrari after failing to win the elusive third title he so desperately craved for. He’s now locked into a three year contract and would rely on McLaren and their Japanese partners Honda pulling something special out of the bag when F1 revamps itself in 2017.
As far as Button is concerned, he has been eluded of a winning car for three years now by a team that he calls as is home. He has a 1+1 year contract with McLaren and would like to end his F1 career on a high note, especially having spent so many years in below par machinery.