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Boullier: I've learned the danger of honeymoons

NEWS STORY
13/12/2017

While the first season, and to an extent even the second, was put down to catching up, it was soon clear that Honda was getting nowhere fast in terms of its much-anticipated return to F1 with McLaren.

As the failures, penalties and excuses continued, it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry, and while both parties attempted to put a brave face on the situation it was clear the 'marriage' was doomed.

Eventually, following further failures and further warnings, the plug was pulled and both McLaren and Honda have headed off to form new relationships.

While Honda has partnered with Toro Rosso, a move that will be watched with great interest by Red Bull, for the second time in its long history McLaren has sought happiness, stability and success with a French engine manufacturer.

While Red Bull will be watching Toro Rosso's progress - or lack of it - with interest, so too the Austrian team will be keeping an eye on its Woking rival which will have the same Renault power unit.

Having enjoyed a strong relationship under the old formula which results in successive driver and constructor titles, the new hybrid formula has seen the relationship falter to the point that Red Bull threatened to quit the sport unless an alternative could be found, while Renault is to withdraw its supply at the end of next year.

As McLaren's relationship begins, Christian Horner has reportedly warned McLaren that initially there will be a honeymoon period, after which the reality of 'married life' kicks in.

"Ha, I had one with Honda and I've learned from it," he tells the official F1 website. "I have learned about the danger of honeymoons!

"But yes, at the start of any relationship you would be foolish to bounce the table before knowing your partner," he continues. "We are now in a 'get to know each other better' phase. We are building relationships. And I will make sure that the honeymoon lasts longer than the last one!"

And as his former partner heads to Faenza, he insists there is no bitterness following the break-up.

"I wish them well," he says. "I want them to be successful... as long as they stay behind us!

"We have tried hard the last three years, but the maturity and the timing was wrong for us. That's a fact. They will go on developing - and they can be successful in the future, of course. With a different timing. Formula 1 is changing so fast. Sometimes the speed of change in Formula 1 doesn't fit corporate speed!"

Asked how difficult it was to finally admit, 'this isn't working', and walk away, he replies: "Any big decisions are always difficult to take.

"The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes, it was a beautiful story.

"Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don't divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional - and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

"There is a sadness that it didn't work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit, in terms of results it didn't work. That's what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness... back to the top!"

Having realised that as early as the pre-season Barcelona tests that 2017 was going to be another year of 'same old', Boullier reveals what happened behind the scenes at McLaren.

"I went to the management, showed them the data and told them that we cannot accept another year like this.

"We had a tough first year with Honda, we had a tough second year, and had expected progress good enough to get us back to where we belong, but Barcelona showed that we would go backwards and that was absolutely not an option.

"I obviously warned them about the consequences of another year of no results, where you keep everybody afloat. We have a new team, which has been reconstructed in the last three years: new people, very good new people - competitive people who used to win - and the danger was we'd lose them.

"The perception of a team is still very much based on drivers, because they are the faces of the team, but for me the real danger was losing those people. That was the discussion at the very beginning of the season."

Asked if he takes anything positive from 2017, he says: "Oh yes, a lot. When you look at what we have achieved in terms of car performance - chassis performance - we know that we are back on the podium, at the top. That for me is a huge reward, that we have achieved this in difficult circumstances.

"The other positive I take from the past three years is that the team is really joined now. We have been suffering so much for three years, but at the same time nobody has left the team. Everybody agreed that this team will be winning again. There is a huge trust and confidence in what we are trying to achieve and because of that we have gone up, up, up, keeping developing this car."

However, a new engine will mean changes to the car.

"You have to adapt and adjust to the engine layout," he agrees, "but the architecture will remain the same. We have a clever concept, so it's not going to be a big drama. Sometimes we are trying not to be stupid."

With McLaren having access to the same engine as Red Bull, it will be interesting to compare the two chassis.

"Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule," he admits, "but these two weeks have almost been recovered."

Asked if the new car will be fully ready for the opening test at Barcelona (February 26), he admits: "It is too early to say that now. You push the boundaries to the limit all the time and if you have that constant development in performance, in the wind tunnel, in CFD, whatever, you want to push the limit to the last minute before you start the manufacturing process.

"You simply want to wait as long as possible to make sure that you've derived each and every bit of information and data when you start manufacturing. And I can say: so far so good!"

And his expectations for 2018?

"I think it would be wrong to draft any expectations now. I am a fan of the motto 'Over-deliver but under-promise'! So no promises, let's see where we will be."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Your Mom's Best Friend, 17/12/2017 4:56

"Also, I love this one here:

"When you look at what we have achieved in terms of car performance - chassis performance - we know that we are back on the podium, at the top."

Umm, no Eric, you not only don't "know" that, you demonstrably, empirically ARE NOT.

Mclaren Technology Centre must have an amazing hydroponic annex down in a sub-basement somewhere."

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2. Posted by Your Mom's Best Friend, 17/12/2017 4:49

"Boullier may have learned the danger of honeymoons, but he (and Zak Brown) obviously haven't learned the danger of too many meatball subs.

Eric "Sometimes we are trying not to be stupid" Boullier.

Try harder.

How did this middle-aged, Eddie Munster look-a-like ever get anywhere near the top job at Mclaren ? I mean, I guess Ron Dennis recruited him, but why ? I struggle to recall any noteworthy successes with Lotus/Renault... For that matter, how the hell did he get that earlier job ?

Seriously, what did he ever accomplish to merit his current position, does anyone know ?"

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