He may have lost most of the morning's running to a wheel nut failure, but according to Fernando Alonso, the opening day of pre-season testing showed there is “huge potential” for McLaren-Renault this season.
Alonso: Spin shouldn't overshadow McLaren potential
Just six laps into Monday’s track time, Alonso spun off at the final corner just as he was poised to set the fastest time of the morning up to that point. The right rear wheel detached in the incident, with investigations into a wheel nut failure confining the double world champion to the garage until the final ten minutes of the morning session.
Asked during his post-testing media session what went through his mind when he went off, Alonso played down the incident, replying: “That it was a good day for you guys!
“I thought exactly that because this is a very, very small problem, but very graphic, very obvious. A car in the gravel makes a big thing, but there is six teams in the garage with the door closed, with the car in pieces - but there is no picture of that. So there are a lot of teams in trouble, big trouble, and for us with a wheel nut it will make the thing of the day. So I thought about all of you!”
Having added four laps to his tally before the lunch break, Alonso quickly improved on his best time in the early afternoon before wet weather limited running for most teams, with McLaren one of the few to complete significant mileage in the wet.
“So far, so good,” Alonso reflected. “Obviously very early days but the car was running fine, the engine was running fine. I know a lot of people from Renault from my past, so 80 percent of the guys in the garage, I know them. I know how hard they work, and how much attention they pay to driveability, to performance of the engine, so every nice was a good chat with them - both at the filming day and also here.
“Everything is running very smooth, quite good. A few things that we are trying to change and trying to adapt, but so far - on the engine side especially - extremely happy. I think there is a huge potential in the McLaren-Renault team.”
After finishing the day with the seventh fastest time - 2.1 seconds off the pace - Alonso insists the wheel nut failure had little impact on McLaren’s plans for the start of testing, saying the team changed its original plan and made up for lost time after lunch.
“We didn’t plan to run in the morning much, we were on a different program. When we had that issue we reverse the program, we didn’t have as big a stop for lunch that we planned. We had a normal day in the afternoon, I’m the one who did the most laps in the afternoon. Others had a few too many issues but [for us] it’s a very good start.
“The car felt very good here, good potential. Also I think on the performance side it is very early to say but everything seems to be in line with our expectations and the windtunnel and the data we had before coming to the test. So I think everything is quite optimistic.”