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Boullier: McLaren looking to unlock the power

NEWS STORY
14/07/2015

Under normal circumstances the three-week break created following the cancellation of the German Grand Prix might have allowed McLaren and Honda to close the gap, if just a little, to the opposition.

Fact is, the break is more of a hindrance, for what the Woking team and its partner needs is track-time in which to better understand what has gone wrong, and what better opportunity than a full GP weekend. To compound their frustration, after Hungary there is another three-week break as the sport 'shuts down' for the summer, leaving the pair even less time in which to work ahead of the numerous flyaway races that end the season.

Despite it all, despite the seemingly endless pain, McLaren puts a brave face on the situation, and none more so than Eric Boullier who must have thought he was in for a relatively time of it following the various problems encountered at Enstone.

"We all know the level of commitment from McLaren, that doesn't need to be discussed," he tells the official F1 website. "But the positive is the level of commitment of Honda, and the fact we know that our cars have not tenths but seconds of potential that can be unlocked.

"We cannot physically use that because we have reliability issues," he admits, "but if we overcome those we will be able to make major steps forward, believe me.

As ever, the big question isn't so much if the team will be competitive, but when.

"It's difficult to pin it down to a number," he insists. "If you tell me tomorrow that we can run full downforce then we will be seconds faster. We will feel competitive if we can be in Q3 all the time and fighting for top six. That would be a major achievement even if it doesn't sound very exciting, as we are here to win. We still target being competitive by the end of the season."

But surely, Q3 was the mid-season target?

"Yes, that was the plan," he admits. "True, we're a bit off that."

Both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have said the car feels alright, but lacks pace and reliability.

"Yes, because we cannot power-up the car," he replies. "The car is pretty well balanced. We are working to bring more downforce like everybody in the pit lane. We are missing speed on every part of the track.

"It is not completely down to only power," he continues, "it has also to do with the driveability of the engine, which has proved very difficult and complex to manage so far. Let me give you an example: we all have the same power in terms of electrical power, but some engines are doing a better job in recovering the energy. That is why you see a difference in qualifying and the race. We are not able today to unlock the full recovery potential because if we do it creates reliability issues - and that hurts us in terms of performance. But it is there! We just have to find the right remedies to unlock it."

Not wishing to suggest that all the problems lie with the power unit, he adds: "If we had more downforce we would be faster as well. The car is balanced, yes, and the concept that we have put in place is working - but in the end we need to be better everywhere!

"If we can unlock the potential we will maybe be fighting - with some luck - for a podium," he continues. "If you can deploy your MGU-K power on the straights on every lap, that is worth a lot of time. Today we can't do that.

"It is not (about) switching on something in the car and it works," he adds. "A consequence could be that if you fix one problem you jump ahead not by tenths but by half a second; another problem - another half a second..."

Asked if the lack of competitiveness might carry on in to 2016, he replies: "No, because we have seen that Ferrari and Mercedes were able to do major steps between their first and second years. We also expect that in our case."

Notice he didn't mention Renault.

"We are not ready," he concludes, "we are not doing a good enough job right now - but we know that we have a lot of potential in our car. Just give us time. Once we've solved some of the reliability issues we will make absolutely significant steps forward.

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