McLaren endured another very difficult weekend at Monza, resulting in a double retirement. Expectations were low beforehand due to taking numerous penalties for power unit changes, but a double DNF was not one of the desired scenarios.
“Today, the talent of our drivers shone", commented Eric Boullier after the race.
"We held onto hope that we would be able to achieve a positive result against the odds this afternoon. Once again, we were left dejected and dissatisfied. Both drivers made excellent starts and held their own in the pack for as long as they possibly could, on a track where we knew we’d be facing a tough challenge. By the end of lap six, Stoffel and Fernando were sitting in 13th and 14th positions respectively, and began progressively pushing forwards as other cars began to pit.
The progress by then was already hampered by gearbox woes for Fernando Alonso, which the driver said cost him up to a second in some laps.
“Only a few laps into the race, Fernando began to struggle with gearbox issues", continued Boullier.
"We derived the issues from sensor problems. Although his engineers worked hard throughout the race to instruct Fernando with software management tools to try to rectify the issue, it became more and more difficult to monitor the gearbox remotely due to the sensor failures, so we had no choice but to retire the car as a precaution. Fernando had been on the back foot for most of the race, and had found it tough to maintain pace and momentum in a car that was tough to manage.
“For Stoffel, his day ended with heartbreak. His performance all weekend has been stellar, and this afternoon he was running in the top 10 for the duration of his race – at one point as high as seventh from 18th on the grid.
"It’s both frustrating and a huge shame that once again engine reliability issues have meant that he was not only forced to waste the opportunity to start the race in eighth place on the grid, but that all the hard work he would ultimately put in to make progress through the pack and aim for points would be rendered pointless. Like yesterday in Q3, he lost power with what we suspect is the same issue as in qualifying, and he had to retire the car."
The engine issue is another drop into the full bucket. Vandoorne reported the issue to be very similar to the MGU-H problem that prevented him from completing a fully competitive qualifying lap in Q3, and forced the team to install a completely new Spec 3.7 engine in the morning before the race.
“For the whole team – who have all worked so hard to give us a fighting chance on this most challenging of tracks – it’s an utterly frustrating and disappointing way to end our Italian Grand Prix weekend and the European season.”
While McLaren obviously builds the gearbox itself, the power unit issues that occurred on Vandoorne's car at Monza won't have helped Honda, who were involved on complex negotiations with McLaren, Renault and Toro Rosso on how to handle the power unit situation for 2018.