Fernando Alonso has admitted that his infamous ‘GP2 engine’ comment was made out of frustration and is something he regrets, but believes other drivers would have made similar comments had they been in his position.
Alonso rejoined McLaren for the 2014 season – the same year Honda returned as an engine supplier – but the project was a disaster as Honda struggled to catch up with its engine rivals and McLaren’s chassis was below par.
At the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso made a remark over team radio that the engine belongs in a junior category car, not an F1 car – “It feels like GP2. Embarrassing. Very embarrassing,” he said at Honda’s home race.
That led to a falling out between Alonso and Honda, which split with McLaren in 2017 and led to Alonso’s retirement in 2018.
“It came [the comment] from a place of frustration and maybe I should not say that, but I didn’t say it in the TV pen or the press conference,” Alonso told F1 Racing magazine.
“I was talking to my engineer in a private conversation. It was not meant to be public. But the engine was very bad.”
Honda has since gone on to claim three wins and multiple podium finishes with Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
“The first year in Jerez [during testing], in four days we did seven laps. Now Honda wins a race and I receive a lot of messages that read: ‘GP2 engine wins now, it should be a sad day for you.’
“I’m very happy, but the engine I had in the car was not the same as the one winning in Brazil [in 2019].”
Alonso would expect other drivers in the same position to make such remarks as the frustration of fighting for wins and titles to scrapping at the back takes its toll.
“If a top driver today goes through the performance that I went through, I could not imagine what they would say,” added Alonso. “In 2015 I was always fighting to get out of Q1 and had 575 places of penalties.
“I say things that I think and that I believe. That’s because I believe those things are the truth. Sometimes I can be wrong. But I don’t see things that I do that others are not doing.”
Alonso’s tumultuous relationship with Honda has limited his future racing opportunities, with Honda reportedly unwilling to support an IndyCar programme using their engines, which has seen the Spaniard race for Japanese rival Toyota in the Dakar Rally and World Endurance Championship.