SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso must already be counting down the days until the Indianapolis 500, given how frustrating Formula One has become for the Spaniard.
The two-time F1 champion is making his IndyCar debut on May 28, and it probably can’t come soon enough.
Alonso’s engine failed early into qualifying on Saturday for the Bahrain Grand Prix, pushing him to 15th place on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Neither Alonso nor his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne won a point in the first two races of the season. With the Belgian driver two places behind Alonso on the grid, that is unlikely to change here.
“It will be a long, hot and difficult one for both our drivers,” McLaren’s race director Eric Boullier said. “But that’s the hand they’ve currently been dealt, and they’ll play it as best they can.”
McLaren struggled all of last season after switching back to Honda engines, finishing sixth in the constructors’ championship and with no podium finishes for the once-dominant team.
Alonso had looked reasonably secure in the first part of qualifying, and was about to start the second part on Saturday – known as Q2 – when he climbed out of his car and called it quits.
“It was already a hard race, but this makes it even harder,” the 35-year-old Alonso said. “We have to change the power unit and without the chance to calibrate the engine a bit we will probably not run the race with all the power available, which is already little.”
Alonso’s engineers face a difficult task in getting the car in decent shape.
“The first lap the engine gets will be the formation lap, so it won’t get any warm-up. We won’t get any laps to tune it, and we’ll probably therefore have an even tougher race than we’d expected,” Alonso said. “The guys in the garage work day and night to prepare the car, there are parts we keep changing, we keep testing the updates.
“There’s hard work behind every weekend, but we don’t have a competitive power unit to fight at the front,” he added. “It’s not the ideal situation, but there’s nothing we can do just now.”
Under race rules, drivers are allowed four engines per season before they incur penalty points, and this is already Alonso’s second one heading into the third of 20 races.
Alonso – whose last win was four years ago in Spain – will actually need to start getting some points before having any to lose.
His best chance would have been at the Monaco GP next month, where the tight, winding street circuit greatly reduces speed and overtaking, thus neutralizing some of the advantage the faster cars have.
Alonso was fifth there last year, having started 10th on the grid, in McLaren’s best result of the season. But the ambitious Alonso, who has won 32 GP races, is skipping Monaco, which is on the same day as the Indy 500.
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