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Boullier: We had slightly higher expectations

NEWS STORY
04/03/2017

When Fernando Alonso ground to a halt after a single installation lap on Monday, causing partisan fans in the stands opposite to jeer in sympathy with their countryman's frustration, we took to Twitter -as you do - for a bit of naughtiness.

"When McLaren said they were going retro this year, we didn't think they meant 2015 reliability issues," we tweeted.

Harsh, but fact is, McLaren fans, race fans... and Fernando Alonso were expecting better.

The oil tank saga verged on parody, and while investigations in to a number of other engine-related issues continue - and Honda boss Yusuke Hasegawa admitting that the start of the season may be compromises, Eric Boullier refuses to be downcast.

"It is still early days," he told the official F1 website. "We had slightly higher expectations, but then the week didn’t start exactly as we wanted.

"There is a bit more work to be done in Japan to investigate why we had those issues," he continued, "issues that we absolutely did not expect to have ... and neither did Honda."

Admitting that the issues are "new", he insists: "It is fixable, but it was not the plan to have these issues. They are not really serious, as there are no fundamental issues with the design."

Asked if, contrary to appearances, the situation is better than 2016, far less 2015, he replies: "Much better, but to be frank, it is not good enough for our expectations and the expectations of our fans... after three years.

"The power unit is driving the performance much more than ever before," he continues. "In the past when you had a difference of 30, 40 or 50 horsepower you could compensate for that with a good chassis. But with these power units we don’t speak only about power: we speak about deployment quality, recovery quality, strategy deployment... something we didn’t know in the beginning and only discovered last year.

"It is there where Mercedes is still ahead, because they are discovering things before everybody else. And that is why you have a much bigger performance differentiation than you had in the past."

Already there are fears that Alonso, who has made no secret of the fact that he might yet walk away from F1 if he cannot challenge for wins, might carry out his threat.

"We are not hiding anything," says Boullier. "I always said that the track would be the judge. Fernando knows what we’ve been told, so he knew what to expect. Can we get back on track with what we’ve expected? I don’t know. We have to investigate what is wrong.

Ignoring the engine issues, Boullier is asked about the competitiveness of the chassis.

"Last year I was hammered after I said that we have the fourth-best chassis on the grid," he replies, "because at one race we’ve done well and then at another we have been far behind, so people started to doubt what I’ve said. So I am not drawing on an expectation like this. What I can say is that I am satisfied with the job we’ve done. I am satisfied with the team that we have now."

Asked why he believes Honda is struggling in the way that it is, he is in no doubt.

"Because they are still three years behind in time to the others," he replies, "Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari started in 2010 - and all these three started with an existing organization, as all three were already doing F1 engines.

"In 2013 Honda decided to come back to Formula One and started from scratch: empty buildings! They had to buy everything and find the right people.

"So to be fair you have manufacturers who had seven years and are still struggling... and Honda started four years after the others. These units are so complicated that you have to be really process driven and go step by step. Unfortunately there is no short cut."

Asked what the team will bring to the car in the remaining three weeks before Melbourne, he laughs: "Prayers and some candles!

"Let’s mentally finish with this test," he adds, "any disruption is not welcomed, so it’ll be head down and work hard. We will come up with the best of what we have."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 06/03/2017 18:18

"If his expectations were only "slightly higer", then he's in the wrong place. His expectations should be/have been for the team to be competitive - if not, then where would the motivation for the staff be if their senior management have such seemingly low targets?"

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2. Posted by koko, 06/03/2017 14:30

"I am a McLaren/Alonso fan, but I would not blame entirely Honda for this mess. Let's review the results in races where the chassis matters the least ... "

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3. Posted by Toffeecup0, 04/03/2017 14:44

"just like last year reliability problems hope they can get them sorted before start of season I think they are a great team and get back to winning ways"

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