MONTREAL (Reuters) - McLaren are confident their relationship with Fernando Alonso is not about to go into meltdown after the Spaniard made his frustration evident in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix
Those who predicted a bumpy ride, after the double world champion returned to the team he fell out with in a stormy 2007 season, will have heard the radio exchanges with some foreboding.
Until Sunday, despite failing to score a point for a team wrestling with a misfiring and underpowered Honda engine, Alonso had been relentlessly positive. But the mask slipped somewhat in Montreal.
Told to save fuel after just 24 of the 70 laps, he exclaimed: “I don’t want. I don’t want”.
“Already I have big problems now. Driving with this, looking like amateur. So I race and then I concentrate on the fuel.”
The ‘amateur’ reference lit up social media but McLaren racing director Eric Boullier, no stranger to fire-fighting after his time at Lotus, played down the suggestion that the relationship was starting to fray.
“If we are still like this next year, yes of course I‘m sure he is going to turn mad, but I don’t think he will,” the Frenchman told reporters.
”You guys see him regularly and you can see he is happy with the team, happy where he is now. He wants to win, he wants to race, he wants to compete, we know he’s a winner and we have the same agenda anyway.
“He told me the other day he was considering this year like his testing year just to be ready next year,” added Boullier.
“At least he doesn’t put himself into a corner or a situation where he would feel frustrated.”
McLaren are starting a new partnership with Honda, with whom they won a string of Formula One titles in the late 1980s, but the Japanese manufacturer has considerable ground to make up with the new V6 turbo hybrid power units.
Champions Mercedes, Ferrari and even troubled Renault are well down the road after more than a year with the new and highly complex engines.
Neither McLaren finished Sunday’s race after both cars suffered exhaust problems, with Jenson Button also missing out on qualifying while the team changed his power unit.
“There is a lot of work obviously to be done,” said Boullier.
“We always say we have a mountain to climb but it looks like it’s a very high mountain.”
Editing by Ed Osmond