Fernando Alonso got to enjoy a rare moment in the sun during qualifying at the Brazilian Grand prix but, sadly for the Spaniard, he was sat in a marshal's chair at the time and not the cockpit of his McLaren-Honda.
As has become commonplace this season – and this weekend at Interlagos – Alonso was sidelined before any real involvement in a session, pulling the recalcitrant MP4-30 off to the side of the road for the second time in two days, this time without setting a qualifying time. He had also been forced to park the #14 machine on Friday afternoon following an engine failure, leaving him short of preparation before today's final practice and qualifying sessions.
Despite the frustration – or perhaps, indeed, because of it – Alonso showed that he had not lost his sense of humour, albeit black in the circumstances. Having swapped Friday's perch on the Armco for the comparative comfort of a deckchair, the veteran hammed it up for the cameras, pretending to catch some rays from the hot Sao Paulo sun, and even managing a cheeky wink for the watching lenses.
“It was beautiful weather and, when I saw the medical car come, I said 'maybe half an hour more would be better',” he grinned afterwards, having admitted that he had not been able to get as much R&R as he would have liked, “I need to be more prepared next time in Abu Dhabi, take the phone and the sun-cream because it was hot out there!”
Alonso also questioned whether his mounting retirement quota might qualifying him for some sort of discount in what is fast becoming his most regular mode of transport on race weekends.
“I told the medical they should have a frequent passenger [scheme] because I have some mileage this year!” he joked.
Having returned to the paddock, Alonso and equally-frustrated McLaren team-mate Jenson Button took the opportunity to explore somewhere they have had to dig deep in their memories to recall, posing for the Brazilian crowd on the top step of the podium.
“We passed close to the podium and said we won't be that close anymore so we wanted to take a picture,” the Spaniard explained, “At least it will be one picture to remember this year for Jenson and me…”
Despite having become accustomed to answering questions well before the end of qualifying and races this season, Alonso admitted that the situation was now beginning to get to him, particularly having told the media that his decision to quit Ferrari for McLaren needed to be judged in November rather than in the first few races of the campaign.
“The frustration of not being in qualifying is high,” he confirmed, suggesting that questions regarding the team's 'improvements' needed to be directed to Honda's Yasuhisa Arai and McLaren principal Ron Dennis, “I didn't take part in the race in Mexico and now qualifying here.
“We need to fix problems on the reliability side [but], at the end of the day, I know the situation. We have been last all season and we will be last here and Abu Dhabi, so it is not a disappointment anymore, it is just the reality. We need to know that and we need to put the things into place for next year. I think big problems need big action and I think that is what we are doing for next year, so I am still optimistic.”