Amazon McLaren documentary reveals Alonso quit fears
A new behind-the-scenes Amazon documentary on the McLaren F1 team has revealed how genuine fears were that Fernando Alonso would quit on the eve of the 2017 season – and there being a risk of 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, is being released on Amazon Prime from February 9.
The four-part series follows the progress of McLaren during a particularly difficult build-up to the 2017 campaign, and climaxes with the disastrous pre-season test session at Barcelona when Honda's difficulties became clear.
The extent of McLaren's concerns about the situation are laid bare in a factory meeting after the test when racing director Eric Boullier and COO Jonathan Neale discuss how the team can move forward following the test.
Speaking about a planned dinner that Boullier was going to have with Alonso, the Frenchman expresses genuine fears that the Spaniard could walk away in light of Honda's woes.
"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..."
Speaking to camera later, 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."
Neale is later shown 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."
Fly on the wall
Grand Prix Driver gained exclusive behind-the-scenes access to McLaren's Woking factory, and highlights the challenges faced when car build ran behind schedule, and when Honda's engine fitting proved troublesome for the MCL32.
There are also some fascinating radio and team conversations from the Barcelona test, when Alonso was clear how unacceptable the engine situation was.
"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."
The documentary also offers a fascinating insight into Alonso's competitive nature, when he 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 said that it had been a privilege 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 Prime members to 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."
* Grand Prix Driver will premiere on Friday February 9 on Amazon Prime Video. More details can be found when the programme is released on: amazon.com/GRANDPRIXDriver
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