You could say that it has been somewhat of a disastrous winter for McLaren. There was lots of hope and optimism in the off season as McLaren rebranded under the stewardship of incoming director Zac Brown, with the feeling that 2017 would be a better year for them, closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari at the front of the field for once again Formula One to be dominated by the manufacturers, just as we saw in the early 2000’s.
Alas, the orange dream has fallen apart over the last couple of weeks with Fernando Alonso publically admitting that ‘the team is ready to win, apart from Honda’, placing the poor performance through testing at the door of the engine supplier. Sky Sports have revealed that it is due to excessive vibrations from the engine, that it is knocking the electrics out, with the team having seven engines in eight days of testing. You can compare that to Williams who did the whole two weeks with the same Mercedes engine.
Not only is it unreliable, but its also slow – up to 30kph down on the straights which could see the team at the back of the field at Melbourne with a detuned engine to get it through the weekend as Honda work at bringing revised parts to the package.
Fernando Alonso is in the third year of a three year contract with McLaren, which was signed in the hope that the partnership with Honda would blossom, but given the current engine situation would question their progress.
Even before the current testing woes, many wanted to see the former fractious relationship of Fernando and Lewis return, which eventually forced Fernando out of McLaren the first time round, this time at Mercedes. That of course hasn’t happened this year, with Valtteri Bottas taking the second seat at the team after Nico Rosberg’s retirement last December.
However, he is only on a one-year contract with the team, and a number of drivers contracts are up for renewal at the end of the season, including Fernando’s which makes the Mercedes seat an attractive one, despite how well they do this season. You would have to say this would be the number one target for Fernando, that is if he stays in Formula One, although there is no obvious sign he is to leave.
Despite how fast they are this season, and with Kimi Raikkonen hanging on at the team despite suggestions he could retire, you would think it would be unlikely that Fernando would return to Ferrari. He went there with hope from Renault that he could rebuild the team after Raikkonen went off the boil the first time, and you would have to question if that relationship was right anyway, despite getting close to winning a third World Championship = only to be beaten by Vettel’s own Red Bull.
There is a=of course a return to Renault, where he won his two World Championships, and later returned in the middle of their crisis and eventual exit from the sport, tarnished reputation to engineer his win at the Singapore Grand Prix. There is a renewed energy from the French manufacturer now, and give them a couple of years to rebuild and they could be a force, with a half decent engine.
He could of course leave as well – maybe to America and Indycars, Nascar or at an outside bet Formula E, but given his recent indications there is unfinished business and he would love a third World Championship to his name.