February 26, 2018 / 11:53 AM / 22 days ago

Motor racing-Alonso does six laps before a wheel comes off

BARCELONA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso did six laps of the Barcelona circuit before crashing into the gravel after a wheel came off his McLaren at the start of Formula One’s pre-season testing on Monday.

The former world champions, who are starting a new engine partnership with Renault after three troubled years with Honda, played down the incident.

“We had a wheel-nut issue, we’ll get back out here this afternoon,” executive director Zak Brown told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya.

“We’re fine. It’s what testing is for. All the teams will have a variety of issues throughout testing, that’s exactly what it’s for,” the American added. “We’re going to lose very little time, no big deal at all.”

The right rear wheel came off Alonso’s car during the first 40 minutes of a chilly morning in Spain as teams took part in their first official test since November.

The double world champion, who gave the new papaya orange and blue car a trouble-free shakedown at the Navarra circuit in northern Spain on Friday, stepped out of the stranded car as marshals waved red flags to halt the session.

The Spaniard inspected the damage closely before the car was loaded on to a truck and taken back to the pits. The track action then re-started.

“There is no drama in the garage. Everyone is quite relaxed, getting on with it and it is quite an easy fix,” said Brown, who had said last week that he expected all eyes to be on McLaren this season.

“This team is used to public pressure and having eyes on us,” he added.

“We enjoy that and we like to step up to the plate and thrive on the opportunity so we are not feeling any added pressure that we don’t already put on ourselves.”

Monday’s test comes a year after a nightmare start for McLaren, with Alonso managing only one lap before lunch after multiple engine failures.

That set the tone for a dismal season that ended with the sport’s second most successful team languishing in ninth place overall.

The season starts in Australia on March 25, with McLaren seeking their first win since 2012. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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