Fernando Alonso: McLaren Could Qualify 1-2 With More Power
The troublesome McLaren-Honda saga continues.
Qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix is over. Throughout the weekend's practice sessions, Lewis Hamilton dominated the lap charts, and in today's qualifying session, took pole with a record-smashing lap, which both raised the bar for the lap record at Spa-Francorchamps and put him on par with Michael Schumacher's record of 68 career poles. For McLaren-Honda, however, things were less glorious. In spite of the rapid pace of Honda's development, their engine is still the worst in Formula One by an obvious margin, and between Stoffel Vandoorne's grid penalties and Alonso's reliability problems, a weekend expected to be a difficult one for the Woking squad has met expectations, and not in a good way.
At the end of Q2, Alonso was on his flying lap, trying to hold on to his P10 position, but after Blanchimont, he slowed, and shouted over team radio about not having enough power. McLaren's telemetry showed that Alonso's slowing car had lost six tenths of a second in the third sector alone due to power loss, according to Motorsport.
It may be a breath of fresh air to hear that the often-faulty Honda engine was, for once, not at fault for the power loss. After examining the car, McLaren determined that it was a battery failure that gimped Alonso.
Alonso believes that he and Vandoorne could lockout the front row, if only they had enough horsepower. He may be right, as McLaren believes their MCL32 is a top-notch chassis.
Knocked down to P11, and out of Q3, Alonso is frustrated to have lost a chance at competing in Q3, but believes that the chance to start on fresher tires will give him a small advantage tomorrow. "In the end, starting 11th with new tyres maybe gives us an extra opportunity so we'll try to take advantage tomorrow," said Alonso to Motorsport.
As for car number two, with Stoffel Vandoorne, a new record may have been set, but not the kind one would strive for— Vandoorne will start the race dead last, in spite of multiple competitors suffering their own grid penalties, because he is on the receiving end of a 65-place grid penalty for the number of engine parts in his car replaced overnight.
Is his gratuitous grid penalty salt in the wound? According to Vandoorne, that's a no. "It's been a reasonably positive day. I've been preparing for the race all weekend because I know I'm starting from the back." If Vandoorne's ready to get his elbows out, and Alonso makes good use of his tires, there may yet be something to salvage from this race weekend for McLaren-Honda.