Fernando Alonso has dropped his heaviest hint yet that he is preparing to leave McLaren-Honda at the end of the season.
The team’s nightmare season slumped to a new low in qualifying for the Azerbaijan GP when both of their cars, already condemned to back-row starts in Baku, failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying.
Team chief Eric Boullier described the weekend as the “most painful I have ever had”.
But asked whether he shared Boullier’s mood, Alonso, sitting alongside the Frenchman, told reporters his weekend had “so far been quite positive”.
Both of Alonso’s managers have been spotted in talks with rival teams this weekend.
After Flavio Briatore tweeted a picture of himself with Mercedes F1 bosses Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda, Alonso’s manager Luis Garcia Abad was pictured in conversation with Renault’s Alain Prost and Cyril Abiteboul on Saturday morning in the paddock.
“It has been very positive for me,” Alonso repeated when asked if his mood was because of the work being done by his management team.
Alonso’s contract is up for renewal at the end of 2017 and the two-time world champion has repeatedly stressed he will leave McLaren unless they win.
But the team have yet to score a point this term and it appears highly unlikely they will break their duck in Baku after both Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne fell at the first hurdle in qualifying.
Alonso and the Belgian rookie were already facing up to engine-related grid penalties worth 40 and 35 places respectively before qualifying began.
But the Spaniard was scornful of his car’s competitiveness after being eliminated in Q1 for the first time this year, telling Sky F1 that other cars were unable to tell that he was on a flying lap because of the crippling power deficit from his Honda engine.
“Our speed is that slow that they think we are on a slow lap but no this is our speed, we are starting a timed lap so they get surprised a bit,” said Alonso.