The sight of Fernando Alonso pushing his broken-down McLaren along the track in a doomed effort to return to the pits during Saturday’s Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying summed up his team’s Formula One season.
The double world champion, sweating in the heat of the Hungaroring before track marshals lent a hand, showed all his determination while the stricken car was proof again of how far once-mighty McLaren have fallen.
“I want to be out there and I want to race and this shows how much I love my sport,” Alonso told reporters after qualifying 15th.
“It doesn’t matter if you are last or 15th or on pole position, you want to drive the car and enjoy it out there,” added the Spaniard who joined from Ferrari this season and last won a race in 2013.
In the end his efforts would have made no difference with the rules stating the car must arrive under its own power with the engine on.
“I didn’t know that, if I did I probably park the car before,” said Alonso.
Racing director Eric Boullier said it would have been impossible to fix it in the little time remaining, with McLaren blaming a loose connection inside the car’s battery pack.
With 2009 world champion Jenson Button qualifying 16th as a result of a software issue, former champions McLaren were once again facing questions about their Honda-powered car’s lack of reliability.
“It was a little bit too optimistic to go to Q3 (the final phase of qualifying) today but definitely it has been our best weekend probably in terms of how competitive we felt,” said Alonso.
“It’s not frustrating any more because we know what we are doing, we know the phase we need to go through together and this year there will probably be worse races coming with circuits that will not suit our car.
“We try to learn from the problems that we are facing now, try not to repeat them and improve and hopefully we become competitive as soon as possible.”
McLaren started the season with plenty of hope after renewing a partnership with Honda that brought plenty of success in the late 1980s and early 1990s with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
The Honda engine quickly showed how far off the pace they were, however. After nine races, McLaren have scored just five points and are ninth of 10 teams.