McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain prepares at pits during the first practice session for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Friday, May 12, 2017. The F1 race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Alonso's McLaren breaks again, Mercedes soars in practice

May 12, 2017 - 9:47 am

MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Just when McLaren had nowhere to go but up, it sunk to a new low Friday when Fernando Alonso's first lap of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix ended in a puff of smoke and a pool of engine fluid.

White smoke enveloped the two-time former champion when his McLaren spun out of a turn and into the gravel at the start of the morning session at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya.

McLaren's team radio told Alonso to "stop the car, stop the car, engine problem" as liquid dripped from the underside of the vehicle. The drip turned into a gushing pour of yellowish liquid when a crane lifted the McLaren away from the track.

By then, Alonso was being ferried back to the paddock on the back of a scooter, meekly waving to some of the local fans who had come to give the Spaniard a much needed boost.

Alonso apologized to his supporters for the no-go, and put the blame on Honda, the maker of the McLaren's troubled motor.

"It's a question for Honda. The engine blew up after one corner," Alonso told Sky F1 television. "It's tough, but tougher for McLaren, who bring updates trying to find a millisecond here and there and we cannot even run."

Alonso slipped away from the track and played some paddle tennis to "keep the body active" while mechanics changed out his car's engine before the afternoon session, when he was the last of the 20 drivers to venture out. He finished with the afternoon's slowest time, over three seconds behind pacesetter Lewis Hamilton.

Champion in 2005 and 2006, the 35-year-old Alonso hasn't added to his 32 victories since winning the Spanish GP in 2013.

The latest blow comes a day after Alonso issued an ultimatum: either McLaren gives him a competitive car by October of he will look to change teams or even consider leaving F1. Alonso has already decided to try his luck at the Indianapolis 500 instead of the Monaco GP later this month.

The rest of the practice saw Mercedes register the top two times — with Ferrari and Red Bull's combined four cars less than a second behind — under sunny skies in northeastern Spain following Thursday's showers.

Sporting a new funky nose to its Silver Arrows, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas led both the morning and afternoon sessions. Hamilton lowered his own mark after lunch to clock a day's best time of 1 minute, 20.802 seconds, with Bottas only 0.090 seconds slower.

Ferrari pair Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, who in reverse order took one and two at qualifying last round in Russia, clocked the third and fourth fastest times less than half a second off Hamilton's pace.

With two wins in four races, Vettel leads the standings with 13 points more than Hamilton. Bottas is another 10 points behind.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who won the race last year to make history as the youngest GP winner at age 18, and Daniel Ricciardo were next.

Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen all skidded off the track and into the gravel near the end of the day, but avoided damage to their cars.

Practice will resume on Saturday before qualifying for Sunday's race.

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