3 February 2015
Jerez F1 Test: McLaren ‘relieved’ but still behind schedule
The new McLaren-Honda completed 32 laps on day three of the Jerez F1 test, boosting morale after a series of technical problems, but the team admits it still has much to do.
McLaren finally completed more than six laps with its recalcitrant Honda-powered MP4-30, but ongoing issues ensure that the Woking team heads into the final day of the Jerez test with a lot of work still to do.
Sterling work from McLaren's night-shift meant that Fernando Alonso was able to take to the track as soon as the Tuesday morning session started and, after a couple of exploratory installation laps and aero checks, the team was able to ramp up the Spaniard's programme, extending the length of each run. Despite running on a damp track, and only using Pirelli's intermediate tyre, Alonso put in 32 laps before a water pressure gremlin sidelined him shortly before lunch.
The double world champion had just begun a timed run when he felt something awry with the car and, on returning to the garage, the team quickly diagnosed a loss of cooling water pressure. Fixing the issue required the removal of the Honda power unit – a lengthy change that couldn't have completed in time for the car to return to the track today.
“[Today] was a completely different,” racing director Eric Boullier confirmed, “The reason why we didn't run in the afternoon is different. It's a third party component that created a water cooling leak. We had to take the engine open and everything to change it because it's in the middle. We could have run, maybe, half an hour at the end of the day but we decided to stop the day and run properly tomorrow. The main issues are now away.”
Despite the frustration felt by both Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button after two days of very little running, Boullier confirmed that the team was confident it had overcome the major problems that had marred the early going.
“It is very important and a huge relief,” the Frenchman said, “Ever since last night, we are a little bit happier after the last lap of Jenson because we believed we had fixed the issues. But, as I said yesterday, sometimes you just open Pandora's Box and you pick up one and another one is coming. This morning, it was just a relief to see the car getting out of the garage at nine o'clock and actually running faultlessly for a few hours.”
Despite being happy to see no major cooling dramas thrown up by the compact packaging of the MP4-30, Boullier admitted that the previous setbacks had left McLaren trailing the majority of its rivals in terms of testing and development.
“We are maybe less than 50 per cent,” he acknowledged, “But it's better than nothing and, at least operationally, we have covered everything we wanted. The good thing as well is that the car is running, as you saw in the morning, ten laps in a row, so we have no design concept or conceptual issues or architectural issues with the car. The cooling is working, everything is fine.
“With a new concept and engine partner, obviously the less we run the more difficult it's going to be to catch up, or the later it will be that we will be able to compete competitively. Every time we can't achieve all our targets in terms of mileage or development, we push back the date where we are able to exploit 100 per cent of our car and our power unit to fight for the win.”
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