Fernando Alonso rued the latest miserable day of his recent Formula One career after his McLaren was struck down by further Honda reliability woes during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Alonso was forced to park his car after just three turns of the Circuit de Catalunya following an oil leak during his very first outing to the track.
It marked the latest in a succession of lows for the double world champion who has failed to reach the chequered flag in any of the four grands prix staged so far this season.
Alonso did not even start the most recent race in Russia after his engine expired on the way to grid.
And, embarrassingly for both Honda and Alonso, in front of his legion of Spanish fans here, history repeated itself on Friday.
With smoke billowing from his engine, Alonso hitched a lift back to the McLaren garage on the back of a scooter.
But rather than watch his contemporaries rack up the mileage during the 90-minute session, he deserted the paddock, with his trainer Edoardo Bendinelli in tow, for a game of tennis.
Alonso made no secret of his departure from the track – he posed with bemused fans as he left the circuit – and then posted a picture to Instagram. “Keeping the body active,” he wrote.
His actions could be viewed as a very public gesture to those at Honda to solve the issues which have thwarted both his and McLaren’s season.
Alonso returned to the circuit for the day’s second running, but he was the slowest of all the 20 runners and completed the fewest laps.
“It’s not my career,” Alonso said. “It is not my ability. It is not my image. It is their (Honda’s) career. Their ability, their money, and their image.
“I drive to support the team, and drive as fast as I can, but the problem is not entirely mine. It is a much bigger problem for them.
“The engine was not good enough. We came out of the pit lane and there was a hole in the engine, and the oil was streaming out. It blew up after 400 metres.”
Alonso added: “It was my decision to play tennis. It wasn’t humour or a funny thing to go outside the circuit. I have had very little time in these weeks.
“So, when I discovered that I had two hours free, instead of being on the sofa and watching television, I went for some training. My dedication is still 100 per cent to my fitness and my preparation.”
Alonso’s deal with McLaren expires at the end of the year and it seems unlikely he will extend his torrid three-season stay with the British team.
The Spaniard’s former team Ferrari could prove to be his only hope of a credible exit, however, with both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen also soon to be out of contract.