McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has admitted that relations with engine partner Honda are becoming strained following a tough start to pre-season testing in Barcelona.
McLaren’s running in the first pre-season test was blighted by niggling issues with the Honda power unit, restricting the Woking-based to just 208 laps, as compared to 558 for Mercedes.
Much to McLaren’s displeasure, Honda’s reliability issues continued in the second test with Stoffel Vandoorne forced to sit out with a electrical problem that required a change of power unit.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, Boullier admits that pressure is mounting on McLaren and Honda to gets its act sorted before the season gets underway in Melbourne later this month.
“Maximum,” Boullier said when asked whether there was a strain in the relationship with Honda. “Obviously we are in F1, we are racing, and we have to perform.”
“So the pressure is obviously huge and obviously we put the maximum pressure on all of our relationship with Honda, and the same for them. We cannot put a footstep wrong, we need to be able to deliver the best car as well so this is both sides,” he said.
Despite just three remaining days in pre-season testing, Boullier says he is not overly concerned by the issues, insisting he has faith in Honda’s ability to turn around its engine.
“Not very much concerned yet, let’s say,” he said. “Obviously we got hurt in our job to understand the car, develop the car and validate some parts, but the process today is more about generating data, as much as we can, and feed the machine back in Woking and make sure the correlation is working with CFD or wind tunnel or anything else because everything is now based on our simulation.
“Obviously we would like more laps because we would like to test more parts but the few we have done is good, the correlation is no good so we can now build a bit on predictions I would say, so not concerning yet.
“For the rest, obviously I leave this in the hands of Honda to make sure that they investigate properly, they address it properly and we have to rely on our partner and we believe that they will do it.”
Rumours have been running rife that McLaren might be forced to terminate its contract with Honda, with the Japanese manufacturer’s woes continuing in the third year of their F1 return.
However, Boullier has reiterated that his outfit will honour the agreement with Honda: “We have a contract in place and actually normally it's seven years in every marriage or relationship, not three!
“No, we don't even think about it. There is a solid contract between us, a long-term contract and obviously we want to build on it even if it's not the ideal times yet.”
by Rachit Thukral