Battling McLaren exceed rock-bottom expectations
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[March 27, 2017]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - In a sign of how
far McLaren have fallen, a retirement for Fernando Alonso and a
last-place finish for team mate Stoffel Vandoorne exceeded
expectations for the embattled team at the season-opening Australian
Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Honda-powered cars had a dreary winter testing with slow times
and an assortment of reliability problems, and the same problems
played out through the race weekend in Melbourne for the
But twice champion Fernando Alonso, who qualified 13th on Saturday,
battled up to 10th and for a while was in contention to grab
championship points at Albert Park.
It all came undone for the Spaniard, however, as his car halted with
an apparent suspension problem only a few laps from the finish.
"A suspension failure I think at the end is what happened, and it
stopped us finishing the race," he said.
"(The race) was pretty good, I think. I was driving one of my best
races so far. We were surprisingly in the points all the race long.
"Also we had to do a huge fuel saving which was hurting us a lot but
we were able to keep the position. As I said, a little surprised to
be so (high) up but at the end we didn't finish and definitely we
need to be more competitive very soon."
Alonso's rookie team mate Vandoorne was last of the 13 cars that
finished, having been lapped twice by Ferrari winner Sebastian
That the Belgian was able to crawl over the line might have been
cause for a small celebration for McLaren, whose relationship with
Honda has become increasingly strained by continuing struggles.
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McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium stands in the team
garage during the second practice session. REUTERS/Brandon Malone
Alonso had little doubt where McLaren lay in the
Formula One pecking order, even next to other battling teams like
Haas and Sauber.
"I think we are last," Alonso said. "That's the performance we have
now. We were 10th (today) because the qualifying lap we had
yesterday was extremely good.
"The start, I was lucky to gain one position and the (Romain)
Grosjean retirement gave us the second one.
"I think in normal conditions in the normal circuit we should be
(Editing by Toby Davis)
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