Alonso suffered a right rear wheel bearing failure at the final corner on just his seventh lap of the morning, losing over an hour of track time.
However, the Spaniard reappeared after the seemingly little damage had been inspected, completing a further 45 laps to take his day one total to 51 – 22 more than at the same point last year. His fastest legal time, a 1:22.354, was good enough for seventh in the standings. Alonso did eventually clock the fifth fastest time, but only due to taking the circuit’s pre-2007 layout, and saw it invalidated.
— Madro🎗️ (@Madro_jl) February 26, 2018
Encouragingly, there were no power unit problems for McLaren as they start a new era with Renault Sport, having given Honda the elbow last year.
Alonso joked about the incident, saying it was a non-issue, akin to seeing a car in pieces in the garage.
“The first thing I thought when we had the wheel nut issue was that it was a good day for the media,” jibed Alonso.
“It was a very small problem, but very obvious when you see a car in the gravel. In testing, there are cars in the garage in pieces and nobody sees that.”
Alonso extended on his thoughts of the aftermath, saying that McLaren hadn’t plan long morning stints in any case.
“We didn’t plan to run much this morning in our scheduled test programme, and we had planned fundamental changes on the car over lunch,” he added.
“So the lack of morning running hasn’t been a big handicap today. We reverted to our normal programme after lunch, and I’m the one that has done the most laps this afternoon while other teams have had issues.”
The 36-year-old double world champion believes the car has “strong potential” after three years of McLaren fighting at the tail end of the Constructors’ Championship, but recognises that it is early in the project.
“For me, I feel that today has been a very good start. The car felt good both here and in Navarra, and there’s definitely strong potential.
“On the performance side, it’s very early days to make an assessment, but everything seems to be in line with our expectations from the wind tunnel and the data that we had before coming to the test.
“At the moment, I think everyone is quite optimistic.”