"I feel nothing": Alonso's French GP 'disaster' after Le Mans high

by Tim COLLINGS
"I feel nothing": McLaren's Fernando Alonso drives on a wet track at Paul Ricard Circuit

One week on from his triumphant weekend with Toyota at the Le Mans 24-Hours race, Fernando Alonso came back to earth with a bang in another part of France on Saturday.

The two-time world champion, widely regarded as arguably the best racing driver of his generation, failed to survive the first part of qualifying in a hugely-disappointing showing for McLaren at the French Grand Prix.

His team-mate in the Renault-powered team Stoffel Vandoorne also failed to progress from Q1 as McLaren and another formerly great British team, Williams, occupied four of the five places for eliminated drivers.

It was the first time this year that McLaren had been in this position and Alonso, in calm and candid mood, later described it as a disaster -? but one that was beyond his powers to avert.

"I feel nothing, just normality," he said. "On the personal side, I'm trying to do everything possible. I believe I'm the only one right now who is 8-0 against the champion in GP3, GP2 and all the categories he raced in (referring to Vandoorne).

"But this is Formula One. You need the right package and the right place. These last races have not been good for us, but amid all this disaster we are seventh in the championship, so we must be doing something right."

Alonso has had to retire from his last two Grands Prix in Monaco and Canada and, this week, McLaren endured much speculation about unrest among their staff -? following complaints at being offered chocolate biscuits as a bonus ?- and calls for senior management to be dismissed.

"We were sort of OK Friday and then the last lap was pretty good, but we never know how fast the other teams are," Alonso added. "Today, we had these difficulties.

"My four laps were good, two-tenths better than my team-mate, who has won several races here. So, it is what it is."

Alonso returned to his familiar theme when asked to contemplate what may lie ahead in Sunday?s race, the first French contest back at Le Castellet for 28 years.

"The same as in the last few races," he said. "A train of cars all Sunday.

"Those on pole will be fastest. They will start first and run away. The second ones will start second and run away. The third ones will start third and will run away.

"The weather could play the most important part. If it rains like this morning, or if there's changing conditions, it will probably be a more chaotic race. If it doesn't rain -- it will be more complicated to overtake."

Having won the Monaco Grand Prix, in the past, and now at Le Mans, last weekend, Alonso only needs to add a triumph at the Indianapolis 500 to his successes to emulate Graham Hill in lifting motorsport's 'triple crown'.

As he ponders his future in Formula One, with his contract at McLaren due to end this year, it seems increasingly unlikely that he will stay for another season of more agonised disappointments.

"I feel nothing": McLaren's Fernando Alonso drives on a wet track at Paul Ricard Circuit