Fernando Alonso's Belgian Grand Prix weekend could hardly have got off to a worse start, but the Spaniard is determined to put a positive spin on a lack of laps in FP1 that led to a 35-place grid penalty.
Although the punishment will confine Alonso to the last row of the grid unless others rack up bigger penalties, he was keen to point out that, in terms of having an issue, Friday practice was probably the best time to have it. The number of grid places lost immediately dwarfed those being racked up by former team-mate Lewis Hamilton – although the situation could change quickly over the remainder of the weekend – and leaves Alonso with a mountain to climb, even though his McLaren features further revisions to its Honda power unit.
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“It's obviously not ideal to start the weekend with a brand-new power unit, only do three laps with it, and then have to change it, especially as it means we'll be taking penalties,” the veteran conceded, “It's not ideal, but you always prefer these things to happen in practice sessions rather than in races – and it's worse still if you're running in a points-scoring position when such mishaps occur. So let's look on the bright side: as ever, we'll learn from our mistakes and make sure we minimise the incidence of repeat occurrences in the future.”
While his car spent the majority of the morning's 90-minute session up on stands with what was initially diagnosed as a water leak, Alonso was able to get some laps under his belt after lunch, eventually clocking a time good enough for twelfth on the overall timesheet.
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“I still don't have a feeling for the performance of the revised PU,” he revealed, “Today, we ran it only in conservative modes, so tomorrow we'll see how much we can push. I'm sure it'll be a step forward.”
Alonso should be in good company on row eleven of the grid on Sunday, with Hamilton currently on a 30-position penalty after facing up to the fact that he would have to exceed the mandated number of components at some point between now and what he hopes will be his fourth coronation as world champion. The prospect of being pared with the all-conquering Mercedes is not one many would take lightly, but Alonso is determined to use it to his advantage.
“I expect Lewis, who'll be starting next to me, will be quicker than me,” he said with tongue firmly in cheek, “so I'll try to hang on to his tail, put a rope around his car and get him to pull me through the field!”
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