Formula 1: McLaren-Honda, Alonso Score First Points of 2017

By - Formula 1 F1 One Honda McLaren-Honda Fernando Alonso Baku Azerbaijan GP

F1: Honda engines finally finish in Top 10 during wild Baku race.

McLaren-Honda needed one of the strangest races in recent Formula 1 history to score points, but they’ll take it. After one of the most trying seasons for a racer anywhere, Fernando Alonso managed a ninth-place finish at the Grand Prix of Europe in Baku, Azerbaijan. That marked the first points for McLaren-Honda and it took eight rounds of the season to get there.

The street circuit at Baku remains a challenging one and attrition weighed heavily in the results. At the field’s front Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel clashed repeatedly, including one contact behind the safety car. Vettel copped a penalty for that and Hamilton had to stop late in the race to fix an errant headrest.

Those items plus a slew of crashes and broken cars led Fernando Alonso to run as high as fifth, the best the McLaren had done all year. The car faded, however, with Vettel and Hamilton charging after their respective issues. In the end, Alonso shuffled back to ninth place, giving the team their first two points of the season. Alonso started from 19th on the grid, making the ninth-place result sound considerably more impressive. McLaren-Honda teammate Stoffel Vandoorne finished 12th of 13 finishers, although he did remain on the lead lap.

While two points sounds insignificant, Alonso will gladly take the result after a slew failures from the Honda F1 powerplant have left the good McLaren chassis unable to produce. The high-profile engine failure at the Indianapolis 500—worth noting that it’s from a separate Honda engine program altogether—just seemed like a kick while he was down.

Highlights from Azerbaijan Grand Prix:

Rumors continue to swirl about Alonso’s 2018 plans, including the suggestion that McLaren may return to Mercedes power. McLaren-Honda remain at the bottom of the Constructor standings with two points. Sauber-Ferrari salvaged a point at Baku with a 10th place finish from Pascal Wehrlein. That puts them three points to the good in the race to the cellar on McLaren-Honda.

Formula 1 races next at the Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring on July 9.

[Photo: McLaren F1 Twitter]

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