Jonathan Neale admitted that the calls made during the Spanish Grand Prix could have been better for Fernando Alonso, with the Spaniard having to settle for twelfth at the chequered flag having started seventh.
The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team racer found himself pushed off the track at turn two on the opening lap by Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa, but McLaren Technology Group COO Neale said it would have been harsh for the Brazilian to be punished for it.
“Fernando’s launch wasn’t bad,” said Neale to Motorsport.com. “He ran off wide in a tussle with Massa, but to be fair to Felipe, it looks like he was watching the cars coming back onto the circuit, so he certainly wasn’t going to be watching in his mirrors at that point.
“So he moved to the outside, and Fernando lost quite a bit of time, and ended up in 11th.”
The decision to pit Alonso early left him stuck behind Daniil Kvyat’s Scuderia Toro Rosso, and Neale believes they would not have done the pit stop then if they had known how difficult it was going to be pass the Russian.
“Fernando had pace, he was quicker than the cars in front, but he couldn’t use it,” said Neale. “The strategy team made the decision to try the undercut.
“The problem with looking at race traces, when you can see the whole thing after it happened, it’s very much easier to say, ‘well if I’d known that.’ But at the time, that was the call.
“Then he got caught behind Kvyat. He had three or maybe four goes at him, but he couldn’t get by. I think the answer is we just didn’t have the straightline speed.
“Fernando could gain down the straight, get him into DRS contact, but then we’re so far down the straight you have to back off again. Kvyat was too fast for us.”
Alonso was then caught out by the timing of the Virtual Safety Car, ironically caused by team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne colliding with Massa at turn one, with the Spaniard having just pitted prior to its introduction, with others gaining time by being able to pit themselves under the VSC.
“We pitted Fernando to get him on a different tyre to get him out of that frustration, at which point we caused the safety car [with Vandoorne], at which point we lost more time,” said Neale.