McLaren's season goes from bad to awful

Fernando Alonso (Gallo Images)
Fernando Alonso (Gallo Images)

Sakhir - One driver failed to start, the other could not finish, and neither has scored a point this season.

McLaren's miserable Formula One campaign went from bad to awful at Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

So much, in fact, that two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso was sarcastic about his team's glaring shortcomings and lack of speed after he returned to the garages shortly before the end of the race with yet another engine problem - even more humiliating considering his team had actually installed a new power unit the day before.

"The deficit in power and performance we had on the straights today was amazing," the Spaniard said, turning his anger into sarcastic humor.

His withering assessment continued as he described how a car that was far behind him - Frenchman Esteban Ocon's Force India - was able to surge past him on straight-line speed.

"Sometimes I looked in the mirrors at the beginning of the straights and saw the other cars 300, 400 metres behind, so I forgot completely about that car and started changing settings on the steering wheel and doing my own things," he said. "Then, the next thing I see is that car alongside me."

Alonso's best race finish last year was fifth, while former team-mate Jenson Button's best was sixth. It was a difficult season then as McLaren struggled to adapt after switching back to Honda, the Japanese engine supplier with which it was once so successful.

But after retiring at the season-opening race in Australia and then in China, Alonso feels the car is going backwards.

"(On Sunday) we never had the pace we had in Australia and China," Alonso said. "You don't enjoy the battle."

There was nothing to like for Alonso in Sunday's race, where he started from 15th on the grid and was back in the garage by the time Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel won the race to match Alonso's tally of three wins in Bahrain. The 35-year-old Alonso's last win in Bahrain was seven years ago with Ferrari.

While Vettel pulled clear at the front, Alonso became embroiled in overtaking battles and defensive moves with drivers who are not even close to matching his career achievements.

His frustration was evident in his prickly radio messages.

In one of them he said "(I have) never raced with less power in my life" and in another he replied "Do what you want, man" when his engineer suggested a back-up plan.

As things stand, Alonso is not close to getting another podium soon - let alone a 33rd career race win.

But at least he got on the track, which is more than his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne did.

"I'm sorry for Stoffel who has had so much bad luck all weekend," Alonso said.

Vandoorne was meant to start from 17th on the grid, two places behind Alonso, but never made it out of the pits.

"The team discovered a water-pressure issue on the way to the grid," said the Belgian driver, who is in his first full season after one F1 race as a stand-in for Alonso last year. "You do all the preparation work, put in so much effort. We drivers train a lot to keep fit to be able to go racing, and then not being able to start is a shame. It's been an extremely difficult weekend for me, having two failures on Friday (in practice)."

Optimism is also hard to find at McLaren.

"There will be some improvements at some point. When they will be, it's difficult to say," Vandoorne said. "It's definitely not an ideal situation, and we need to make a good step forward soon."

Understandably, McLaren's racing director Eric Boullier left Bahrain in a downbeat mood.

"Well, what can I say? Fernando failed to finish and Stoffel failed even to start," the Frenchman said. "It was a bad day, there's no point pretending otherwise."

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