- Palmer points to teammate that Hamilton would love to have
- Alonso takes a dig at Honda and points to troubles for Toro Rosso
- Hamilton on why Mercedes will triumph in 2018 and it is not due to the W09
- Alonso reveals why he did not quit F1 despite leaning towards exit
- Vettel offers crisp reply to Ferrari critics
- Hamilton’s ‘oompa loompa’ ex-girlfriend reveals champion’s strange toilet demand
- Hamilton helps Mercedes bag sponsorship deal
- Verstappen responds to Wolff’s early season prediction
- Ferrari boss opens door to staying in F1 if Liberty Media follows instruction
- Halo not disturbing drivers’ vision, but glaring problem remains
- Updated: January 31, 2018
There were genuine concerns within McLaren that their star driver Fernando Alonso would quit on the eve of the 2017 campign, it has been revealed in the Amazon documentary on the McLaren F1 team. The new behind-the-scenes cut also shows how members were fearful of a team “collapse”.
The series “Grand Prix Driver”, which is narrated by Michael Douglas and produced by Manish Pandey, a BAFTA winner for his involvement in Senna, will be available for the public on Amazon Prime from February 9.
While the series will follow the progress made by McLaren before a rather forgettable 2017 season. However, they too knew things would not go so smoothly as it climaxes with the disastrous pre-season test session at Barcelona.
Just how fearful the team was of losing Alonso before the start of the campaign are highlighted in a factory meeting after the test when racing director Eric Boullier and COO Jonathan Neale discuss how the team can move forward.
Speaking about a planned dinner that Boullier was going to have with Alonso, the Frenchman talks about the possibility that Alonso may soon leave the team.
“He is going to say: ‘You know what guys? Ciao bello’,” says Boullier. “He will not stay. I am a 100 percent certain he will not stay…”
In front of the camera, Boullier added, “After this testing, Fernando is quite pissed off. He is clearly saying I may reconsider my position to race because I’m not going to survive another year like this.
“My main worry at this time is not to have the team collapsing. I know the domino effect as well, you know.
“I mean, in this business you know how it works…when you are weak, people they come, they just poach who they want. It takes years to build an F1 team but you can kill it in six months.”
Later, it cuts to a scene of Neale briefing team staff about the outcome of the first test and saying that Honda’s performance had been a “shock”.
“A line has been crossed,” explains Neale. “We are done. We’ve done that experiment about just trusting what is going to happen.
“So we need to find a new way, we need to find a new plan. McLaren will not travel hopefully during the course of this season.”
Grand Prix Driver got exclusive behind-the-scenes access to McLaren’s Woking factory, and it did its best to highlight the challenges faced when car build ran behind schedule, and when Honda’s engine fitting proved troublesome for the MCL32.
Viewers will undoubtedly be fascinated to listen to the radio and team conversations from the Barcelona test, when Alonso made his displeasure quite clear.
“It’s too dangerous to run like this,” said the two-time champion after one lap. “Horrible balance with the rear because the driveability was poor. So we cannot test like this.”
He later added, “This is a really a (beeped out) engine. A (beeped out) power unit you know.”
But that’s not all the documentary is about. It helps you see just how competitive Alonso is, especially when it is revealed that his desire to win extended as far as racing his grandma home from school when he was younger!
“I used to race with my grandmother back to my home,” he said. “We exit the school and I knew it was maybe eight hundred metres to home, so four minutes or five minutes. And I had like two split times – one in a bridge and one in a junction that we had.
“And I had to be 1m50s more or less in the bridge and then 3m15s in the traffic lights and things like that. So I’m used to calculating all my life because I have to win.”
Pandey spoke about how it worked out so well to get access to a team like McLaren even when things were going wrong.
“It’s no secret that this has been the most difficult season in McLaren’s history and it would have been easy for them to close the doors on us,” he said.
“Instead, the team trusted that perople would understand the mind-blowing complexity of modern Formula 1 and to recognize that all competitors take falls – but only great champions get up again, fight and win. And McLaren and Honda are great champions.”