Fernando Alonso is braced for the prospect of a further grid penalty this season as Alpine battle with McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship.
Fourth position is what those teams are fighting for, McLaren aiming to successfully defend it having finished one place above Alpine last year.
A big swing in McLaren’s favour occurred at the Singapore Grand Prix last time out, not least due to Alpine duo Alonso and Esteban Ocon having to retire within seven laps of each other due to what team boss Otmar Szafnauer initially thought to be “a similar power unit issue”.
That enabled McLaren to move four points ahead of Alpine as Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed strong performances, coming home fourth and fifth.
Reliability has been the Achilles heel for Alpine this term, with Alonso the first driver back in May at the Spanish Grand Prix to incur a grid penalty for exceeding the number of permitted power-unit parts for the season. He then served another penalty in Austria, again being dropped to the back of the grid.
Before Singapore, Alpine sporting director Alan Permane had said of Alonso’s engine situation “I don’t rule out a power unit change for him but at the moment we don’t have one more planned” – but that has clearly now changed as a result of the Marina Bay double DNF.
Speaking at the Japanese Grand Prix press conference, Alonso, asked whether the next race in the United States was a likely opportunity to add another power unit to his pool, said: “Yeah, I mean, we are maybe not completely safe until the end of the year.
“So it is possible we may have to introduce a power unit. I don’t think it will be this weekend but…soon.”
Alonso has retired from both of the last two races, previously doing so in the pits during the Italian Grand Prix, and believes up to 60 points have been lost this season as a result of gremlins in the works.
On whether the problems at Monza and Marina Bay had been connected, the driver bound for Aston Martin in 2023 replied: “No, it was different issues. We have been hit quite badly about reliability this year. We lost a lot of points.
“Unfortunately, now we are in this battle with McLaren, a few points behind, and hopefully we can have a normal five races now and finish on a high. But yeah, [reliability] has been our weakest point this year.
“I think Singapore was standing out because it was a big loss in points there. But I think it will be very, very tight until Abu Dhabi.”
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