In all of its different variations, from international megastar Grand Prix racing to a local hometown dirt track event, auto racing is an exciting sport. It pits both human power and mechanical capability against a field of competitors with nearly equal footing in terms of mechanics, and the end result is an entertaining, often nail biting display of instinct and ability.
Except when a software glitch causes a $2.6 million race car to lose power in the middle of a 200-mile per hour event.
That was the case yesterday with Fernando Alonso had to literally pull over during the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix Formula One World Championship on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Driving a McLaren with software powered by Honda engineers, Alonso had to drop out of the race on his home team course and forgo any points in the series from this race.
But the reality isn’t quite as dramatic as some tweets made it sound. It’s one thing to be puttering along at 250mph or so and have the power to the vehicle simply cease. Alonso’s team had been informing him of the issue prior to the failure, and the driver himself reported that he had no information on his gauges prior to the failure. He’d been racing blind, in fact, without even knowing his speed; he had to use other competitors’ positions to maneuver and adjust.
There is also good news on this front for the uber-expensive car: there was initial concern that engine failure caused Alonso to drop out, but that was not the case. From there, the concern was that suddenly stopping a Formula 1 race car due to the power loss could also overheat (and therefore, cook) the engine and other key systems, but that also seems to have been checked out and cleared. Despite the as-of-yet explained software issue, the car’s engine seems to be doing great, and has even been cheered by team management for its durability over the course of the last four Formula 1 races, an apparently uncommon feat for the type of wear the race puts on the vehicle.