LONDON (Reuters) - One word seemed to encapsulate Fernando Alonso’s Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.
The comment, posted on Twitter under a photograph of the sweaty Spaniard walking in his McLaren overalls past the Ferrari garage and the Italian team’s smiling mechanics, was simple: ‘Ouch’.
It was hard not to feel a twinge of pity for the double world champion, who left Ferrari for McLaren at the end of last year, as his former employers celebrated their first victory since 2013.
Formula One glamor team Ferrari are back in business while McLaren, with their new partners Honda, have gone backwards.
Alonso, who missed the first race of the season after a crash in testing, lasted just 21 laps before retiring due to cooling problems with the car’s energy recovery system.
World champion Lewis Hamilton, who partnered Alonso at McLaren in 2007 and whose own move to Mercedes at the end of 2012 had commentators fearing he had made a mistake, felt for the Spaniard.
“I sat next to Sebastian (Vettel in the news conference) and thought to myself ‘What is Fernando thinking?,” he said after Alonso’s jubilant replacement had sprayed the winner’s champagne.
“I remember when I left McLaren and came here (Mercedes), we were better the next year. I had a good feeling then but he’s almost done the opposite of what I did. It could have been him today. It’s just strange how things turn out.”
Alonso was determined to stay positive.
“Interesting days ahead!! Looking forward! Very happy!!,” he exclaimed on his Twitter feed on Monday.
“It definitely has been a very nice weekend for me and a very nice surprise how the team progressed from Australia to here. If we keep this rate we will enjoy it very soon,” he had said after the race.
That may sound like bravado but the Spaniard has a new challenge and a long-term plan that will take time to come to fruition.
“To beat Mercedes at the moment, you need to do something different, you need to risk somehow,” he said. “I am in the right place, the team is so talented, very young people, a lot of Japanese people new in Formula One.
“It’s a very exciting challenge because we will grow up all together from the very bottom and when we arrive to a podium position, we will look at each other and say ‘this has been a very exciting trip.’”
Editing by Tony Jimenez