Just when it seemed McLaren's fortunes could sink no lower, they plunged new depths when Fernando Alonso's auto broke down Friday on the first lap of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.
On expiry of his contract by the end of 2017, the Spaniard said: "I am hopeful that things will improve, but from September or October I will be open to any kind of negotiation, whether with McLaren or any other team".
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who won the race previous year, and Daniel Ricciardo were next, within 1.6 seconds of Hamilton. "But not only to race but also to win", said Alonso in a report published by AutoWeek.
Alonso's home fans had barely settled in their seats for practice at the Spanish Grand Prix before his car's Honda engine blew in a mess of smoke and oil.
" I get the impression that when we do not have trouble on Fridays and Saturdays, we are unable to finish the race on Sunday".
"The engine was not good enough", Alonso said.
McLaren's team radio told Alonso to "stop the auto, stop the vehicle, engine problem" as yellowish liquid dripped from the underside.
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"It was more or less expected that we would have these problems".
Fernando Alonso left instead to go play some paddle, a racquet sport similar to tennis.
Honda is still chasing answers as to why Alonso's engine blew up after encountering a sudden oil pressure loss just three corners into an installation lap at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Asked by Motorsport.com about whether such input from an external party like Mercedes was now essential for Honda, Brown said: "I let Honda comment on all of their activities, but I think it is essential that Honda continues to revise their approach to get more power and more reliability in the back of their auto". He has struggled with inferior cars since, and his growing frustration has driven him to trading the endless twisting and turning of the labyrinth-like Monaco GP for a run at the Indianapolis 500 on an oval track later this month.
The rest of the practice saw Mercedes register the top two times - with Ferrari's and Red Bull's combined four cars less than a second behind - under sunny skies in northeastern Spain following Thursday's showers.
Ferrari pair Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth, about a second slower than Hamilton. We ve given him a great environment, he really enjoys it here - we ve got to give him a winning vehicle. "It looks like it will be between them and us", Vettel said.
Practice will resume on Saturday before qualifying for Sunday's race.