MONTMELO, Spain — Fernando Alonso made an inauspicious start to the Formula One season on Monday, going off the track after losing a wheel on his new McLaren on the first day of testing in Spain.
Alonso was about to complete his seventh lap when the rear wheel on the right side came off, sending him into the gravel on the final turn at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. McLaren executive director Zak Brown said a problem with a wheel nut caused the wheel to pop off.
Daniel Ricciardo clocked the morning’s fastest lap at 1 minute, 20. 179 seconds in his Red Bull. Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Nico Hulkenberg of Renault were all within 0.4 seconds of Ricciardo’s time.
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton was scheduled to drive for Mercedes in the afternoon session.
The morning session was stopped for a few minutes while a crew hauled Alonso’s damaged McLaren onto a flatbed truck and drove it back to the pit lane.
The Spaniard got back on the track for the final minutes of the four-hour morning session but completed only 10 laps in total, the lowest of any driver.
The two-time world champion finished 15th in the drivers’ standings last year after earning points in only five of the 20 races. Alonso hasn’t won a race since he claimed his 32nd victory in the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix while driving for Ferrari.
McLaren is hoping to rebound this year after changing to Renaut engines following three problem-plagued campaigns with Honda.
Last year, Alonso’s Honda-powered McLaren broke down on the first lap of preseason testing because of a malfunction to its oil system that required the engine to be changed.
Force India, Toro Rosso and Haas unveiled their new cars shortly before testing started near Barcelona.
Testing runs until Thursday. A second four-day session will be held from March 6-9.
The season-opening Australian GP is on March 25.