Fernando Alonso’s strained relationship with McLaren engine supplier Honda has further soured following the aftermath of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The Japanese manufacturer has rejected his claims of an “engine problem” following his race retirement.
The Spaniard retired on Lap 26 after a promising start, jumping from tenth to seventh. But his car lacked the straightline speed needed to compete at the challenging Spa Francorchamps circuit and he soon fell back to his starting position.
The 36-year-old vented his frustration over the team radio: “Embarrassing, really embarrassing,” he fumed.
When given information about the positions of other cars Alonso told his engineer, “I don’t care too much about the gaps. This is just a test”. He then broke off all radio communication.
“Every two or three corners the team was on the radio suggesting different brake bias settings, different differential settings, but as soon as I’d get to the straights the others would even pass me before they opened their DRS,” Alonso explained after the race.
“So I said to stop radio communication because I had enough work to do inside the cockpit.”
The former double world champion continued to lose positions. After dropping back to twelfth place he reopened radio communications to ask the team if any rain was showing on the radar, which would have provided an opportunity to salvage some points.
Shortly after the team responded that the dry conditions were to continue, Alonso entered the pits after reporting, “Engine problem. Engine problem”.
However Honda has stated they failed to find anything wrong the engine, and speculation is mounting that the out-of-contract Alonso simply gave up and retired a healthy car.
“He radioed in with what he thought was a problem with the car, and although there was nothing showing in the data, we decided to stop the car as a precaution,” said Honda’s Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa.
But Alonso denies suggestions he retired on purpose.
“For sure, is not easy to race like this, as you cannot have any good wheel-to-wheel battles. It was a difficult afternoon and we were not competitive in race trim.
“The car was too slow on the straights and it was impossible to have any battles out there, so points were also impossible today. Eventually, we had to stop due to an engine issue.”
Image via McLaren Honda