Nico Rosberg
2016 Formula 1 World Champion
Eric Boullier interview: “What we promised Fernando, we have delivered”
McLaren Honda
Fernando Alonso
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Mar 2016   |  3:46 pm GMT  |  41 comments

McLaren boss Eric Boullier looks a little less troubled than in 2015.

He says that he doesn’t yet know exactly where McLaren fits into the pecking order, but he can see clear signs of progress and he believes that with this new car, the team has delivered on the promises it made to its driver Fernando Alonso, who was clearly frustrated last season.

The Frenchman is presiding over the final days of testing for the new McLaren Honda in Barcelona and describes himself as satisfied with the progress of the chassis.

The engine still needs a little work, “but there are some good signs of progress,” said Boullier. “And I think the reliability is still a weakness. But at last we can run now so we can develop the car, which we couldn’t do last year. We can definitely validate systems. So it’s definitely a step forward. ”

Eric Boullier

Honda is two years behind Mercedes in development, so the steps they can make during this year are large.

Speaking to JA on F1 in the Mobil 1 unit at the track during the lunch break, Boullier said that one of the main Achilles Heels of the Honda last year, which was the electrical energy regeneration and deployment had been addressed, “yes the recovery is much better,” he said guardedly.

The car was running in launch specification for most of the test but on Wednesday a new rear wing was added, which will slow the car on the straights, but will improve the overall performance and lap time. Other Melbourne aerodynamic parts will be fitted over the coming days.

A revised Honda engine is also being used this week, as the team moves its package forwards. “The engine is still not at its full 2016 capacity, so we have a lot of performance still in the package. There is a lot of mapping and things which we can improve,” notes Boullier.

“Fernando says we can have a couple of podiums this year, which is true in theory, but we don’t know exactly where we are at the moment. We have a lot of things coming, but we can’t use them all yet.”

Honda has an aggressive engine mode for qualifying, which was one of the key defining features of the Mercedes last season in the final stages of Qualifying 3. It’s an area where Ferrari has been working hard. These maps can provide up to 30hp more than standard qualifying mode for short periods, but Honda is a little way off being able to maximise it. “The mapping on these engines is amazing,” he says. “You can play with the knock and get dramatic effects.”

The mood music from Alonso is certainly more positive. The Spaniard, who will celebrate his 35th birthday this season, has said that he believes the McLaren will be one of the best chassis by the start of the European season. So what makes him so confident?

Fernando Alonso

“What we promised him we would deliver, we have delivered,” said Boullier. “So you have the trust. It was important for us to understand that the model we use in the factory is correlating with the track. That means that we can use this model to develop the car. And it looks like it works.

“The numbers we have at the track now are the numbers we had in the computer this winter. So Fernando knows what we are doing, as does Jenson. They know that when we promise, we do what we say. We are not over promising, not under delivering.

“We just deliver what we promise and I want to keep this line because it is the way to keep the trust perfect between the drivers and the team.

“He knows what is coming along and it’s my target to deliver the best car. With the current regulations you need three years minimum to get to the maturity of your chassis. We had no continuity from 2012/13 so last year we started a new philosophy and it started as not the best car, but by Abu Dhabi was the third best chassis. Check the GPS traces. So in one year we caught up a lot.

Fernando Alonso

“We believe that the step we made through the winter and with the development up to the race here in Barcelona, will make us closer and maybe even better.”

Boullier says that Alonso has not added any pressure to McLaren by saying that he doesn’t want to be a tourist travelling around the world without winning. He adds that they all share the same goal, which is to get a winning chassis and engine package as quickly as possible.

What do you think of McLaren as it looks so far? Do you believe they will challenge for podiums by the end of the season? Leave your comments below

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41 comments

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1

Congrats to the team for the improved performance and more importantly for keeping their promises to the drivers

Certainly Mclaren's biggest problem was the ERS as the drivers couldn't defend positions therefore ending up with a GP2 engine.

And yes, it would be brilliant to fight for podiums unfortunately Alonso reckons only a couple of podiums will be possible which basically means they will be down more to good fortune that actual performance of the car.

2

By Abu Dhabi they had the third best chassis? Really?

3

I would like to which were first and second.

4

Merc & Red Bull

5

yes as last year they were 12 seconds of the pace and ended up 2.5 to 3 seconds of the pace with no development inplace

6

Okay let's just assume that Mercedes will totally dominate this year given their reliability, pace and driver quality. So just to put them aside quickly.

We should have a 2nd Constructors Championship. Since it seems like this is where all the action is going to be! It will be between Ferrari, Williams, Redbull and fingers crossed, Mclaren if they can sort the reliability side of things.

It's really not worth for fans and F1 watching both Fernando and Jenson at the back with hands tied.

7

"between Ferrari, Williams, Redbull and ... Mclaren"

From what I can see, add Force India and Torro Rosso right in there ... it'll be a buzzy pack. They look like they've got a solid car/aero-pack.

8

Exactly. I'm not a big McLaren fan, or Alonso/Button fan for that matter, but it was/is very damaging for the sport to have two of the best at the back of the field. Sadly, the likes of Bottas and Hulkenberg haven't been able to show that something that gets fans excited.

9

Tbh Ferrari looks closer to Mercedes, Vettel being only 0.9s slower whilst on the mediums and coasting last sector, Hamilton was on the softs as well so Merc had this 0.9s on same tyres on average last season, Ferrari will be around 0.5secs off the Mercs this season so no reason to see it as completely a whitewash, it's quite clear Ferrari are still ahead of Williams and Redbull.

Rosberg also seems on form and carried the momentum from the end of last season, Hamilton won't find it as easy as he did last season.

10

0,5 sec per lap is 30 sec in the race in clean air. It means, game over. Nobody will challenge Merc this year, again. Ferrari is not on the same level and it is not only the pace, also reliability

11

As far as McLaren ‘looks’ so far I like it . . .

However I’m more concerned about how it will ‘go’.

I believe Alonso is right regarding his ‘one of the best chassis’ prediction –

Thankfully he was prudent not to mention the ‘power’ unit.

And what exactly was Boullier’s ‘delivery promise’?

‘You won’t be hitting the wall during testing’ . . . perhaps?

12

I particularly liked this part:

"The numbers we have at the track now are the numbers we had in the computer this winter."

Begs the question, what were the numbers in the computer?

13

Good chassis? check

Good engine? ummm

At least it sounds like they won't be fighting for last place this year. But, by now we all know that engine (PU) is where its at in the current formula. From Boullier's guarded words, I don't have high hopes for McLaren this year. (Obviously, this could be a premature conclusion.)

14

How about those comments by Alonso on F1 today? Yipes. Even a 'complainer' like me got a bit defensive.

15

I will say "mea culpa" if that is the case however I do not believe a word, this is just pure PR.

McHonda is two seasons behind and Mercedes 2 steps (or maybe more) ahead.

Looking forward to release the "potential" in Australia.

16

I also agree, experts in other websites suggest the same 2 seconds as last year. Mercedes has moved forward and so has McLaren, but just as much.

17

I couldn't agree more Frank, total PR exercise in turning the perceptions of the team from last year. There is absolutely nothing in what I have seen so far that indicates they will be any better than mid field. After 5-6 rounds Alonso will be dreaming of driving the STR or Force India. As for the third best chassis, I assume he was referring to those running Honda engines.......having said all of that I would love to see the McHonda/Alonso package spanking Mercedes one day....

18

Really hope McLaren can deliver at least to stay between 5 or 6th place this year. Car does look more reliable, hope it can deliver more power also.

19
Clarks4WheelDrift

Would be interesting, if possible, to see the vmax comparisons from this test vs the first test?

20

Good to see that Button was considered in the promising as well. Let's hope that Honda gets on with the program, too, and that there are, in fact, podiums in the future for both McLaren drivers.

Now all everyone has to worry about is the current futzing around with the qualifying format won't breed carnage on the starts. As many have already observed, fixing something that wasn't broke is aggravating and, thankfully, Maldonado isn't an ongoing threat to life and car and RG has managed to keep his act together.

21

Only after several Alonso mentions - Dis-f*g-graceful!

22

You can be rest assured, that there are many "actual experts" out there in the F1 family (and I mean those who actually attend races in a professional capacity, or who have access to data that you or I would never even understand, let alone see) who have a far deeper understanding of these things than any fan, or keyboard warrior

23

*yawn*... same old garb. happy someone is putting a stop to a certain basher though!

24

Sorry James I just dont get what power this guy has over so many. Even if I were to accept hes One of the top drivers , hes not Senna, Schumi, & imo not even a Vettel or a Hamilton- yet hes pampered like all of them combined. I think all of us have a responsibility to call it like it is & not hide behind the political innuendo that surrounds so many things in F1. I should note too that when a team principal responds this way - its more to do with keeping FA & Mclaren fans onboard- they apparently could use it right about now.

25

Please don't start the Alonso bashing again. You know the rules - Mod

26

It was broken, or at the very least unexciting. I liked the old 2x1hr system better, since it allowed drivers to find their limits. Anyhoo, let's wait and see how it pans out.

27

I'm looking forward to Buxton's apology and very much hoping it will become humble pie....but shan't hold my breath !.

28

I think McLaren Honda are clearly on the right track. After the embarrassing start of the renewed partnership that was last season, they seem to be making steady gains. Clearly their not there yet, but they're showing real intent and promise. The power unit has improved, as well as the chassis, but the latter can only fully be appreciated if they can get the PU to a more competitive level.

As an F1 fan, I'd really love to see multiple teams fighting it out, the sport needs more teams to be competitive.

I think in the long run, McLaren will reap the rewards of hard work, patience and being a works team.

29

The Spanish Samurai will unsheathes his Katana & swiftly swoosh a tyre barrier into a deck chair if they don't give Alonso what they promised. Tori Gato Mr Roboto.

30

Be good to see if they can get into the midfield mix this year. It's not going to be easy though, as Manor have made a step forward too, not to mention Sauber and the new team Haas potential.

31

We, all F1 fans/followers need to see both these drivers in the mix. for too long their skills have been wasted. hope that they can really get up there and give the others a bit of aggravation.

32
Liam Aldersson

Not in a position to comment on the new engine or car but the point I would make is that both the drivers should be able to use their experience and sharp racing brains to profit out of the new qualy system.

33

Eric,you surely delivered.But this man has a monstrous appetite with a Machiavellian brutality.Now, the question is,is he satisfied or go the O.Twist way?

34
Paulinator Maximus

Cryptic Boullierspeak?

"The engine still needs a little work, “but there are some good signs of progress,”...“And I think the reliability is still a weakness." = We haven't run this unit at full capacity yet. The Honda is still fragile.

“What we promised him [Alonso] we would deliver, we have delivered"...= Now it's up to you Fernando...

“Fernando says we can have a couple of podiums this year, which is true in theory, but we don’t know exactly where we are at the moment. We have a lot of things coming, but we can’t use them all yet.” = We know where we are in terms of speed right now, but until we can turn the Honda's wick up, we won't have a clue how close to Williams we are...

Guarded optimism for a top third finish?

35

They promised him the 6th fastest car in F1 and he is supposed to be happy? Ok.

36

I've never been an avid fan but my respect for McLaren is growing immensely lately. They've taken this hard road because they want to win. That's a lot more than can be said for a number of other teams on the grid. Boullier's comments sound encouraging. (James, did his confidence seem genuine when face to face?)

A step has certainly been made from last year. With the combined resources of Honda and McLaren AND the committed attitude towards winning, I think they can prevail. Alonso would be well advised to see it through to the end if his career.

37

Quite right Luke. Even if, magically, Merc offered him a seat next year (he'd probably do it for free like Senna offered Williams) he'd still have to contend with either, 4x WC Hamilton or freshly minted, quite at home WC Rosberg... At 36, neither a pleasant prospect. If RBR came good they've got a stable of young talent that would relish proving themselves against Alonso. And Renault is only just as likely as McHonda to threaten the championship before his use by date. Stay put and develop the team... Alonso WDC 2019

38

Realistically he doesn't have much choice career wise. There's no spots in any of the top teams available and even if they were is a 35 year old slightly jaded FA worth the $40 million pa he charges to drive? There are rising prospects that show potential to be champions who don't come at anywhere near that price. MV & DR come to mind.

I think it's his last throw of the dice, and probably correct in his assessment that at the money MclAren Honda was prepared to pay, it was better to bet big on an unknown quantity then to stick with Ferrari that is still most likely going to finish second. SV will make a damn fine go of the WCC but I can't see a Mercedes LH year of dominance in 2015 being beaten even if Merc has an average year compared to last.

39

I wish somehow this season turns out to be as good as 2012 or 2010. Even if one doesn't like Fernando one can't ignore the fact that he makes F1 interesting. Don't care who wins until the best drivers are fighting it out in the best cars on track.

40

3rd best chassis? So better than either a Merc, Ferrari or Red Bull? I don't believe that for a second.

Podium likely? Yes. Someone will drop the ball and they were close last year.

Regular podium? Sadly, no. As much as I want to see JB win every year, it is unlikely.

41

Third best chassis by end of the year? The problem with that it that it's still not very good. Just a few years ago McLaren were fighting for championships, and now they're saying "at one point in the season the best part of our car was the 3rd best on the grid!" It looks like they'll easily beat their points total from last year, and probably leap frog a couple of teams in the constructors. It's still not really good enough though.

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