McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has admitted that the beleaguered fallen giant will still be conducting the initial development of its new MP4-31 at the first race of the season in Australia.
Although pre-season testing has been more successful than the preamble to last year's troubled campaign, Boullier revealed that McLaren had not been able to complete its entire planned programme, with further additions to the car now heading straight to Melbourne rather than being tried in the more controlled conditions of the two Barcelona group tests.
"We are a bit behind the programme, so that means we are going to turn up to Australia with more bits on the car which, unfortunately, have not been signed off here," the Frenchman confirmed as eight days of testing wrapped up in Spain on Friday, “It's just manufacturing and production, nothing else. [There is] nothing wrong, we have just been maybe too ambitious.
"Everything is fine, we just missed by one day unfortunately, and that's it. It happens sometimes. You are obviously trying to stretch and to be on the edge. We wanted to give the maximum time to the aerodynamicists to develop the package and then you have to compress the lead time on the production, something will happen and then you are behind. That's it. Nothing wrong, no drama, no stories, nothing. It just happens - it happens every day and every race, to be honest.”
Unwilling to reveal exactly what had yet to be tried on the graphite-and-red machine, Boullier insisted the McLaren's preparation was already streets ahead of where it had been last year, when Honda's return to the top flight was blighted by ongoing reliability problems as it tried to play catch-up with rivals Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari.
“It's day and night," he claimed, "Last year, we couldn't do anything on the car, [and] at least this year we went through a lot of job lists and to-do lists and check lists. In terms of systems, and even the car itself, we pushed some limits on some new designs we had. Some of them failed, some of them didn't, which is a normal process of testing and I'm happy with the result.
"At least now we have covered decent mileage over the last eight days, so we are much more prepared and comfortable. I think we have been able to run at least most of the days which is very good news. In terms of the chassis, it is important that we could go through all the systems which we couldn't do last year so, for us, it is a good achievement. I think now we have a reliable car to start the season, so we are definitely more confident and I think there will be more to come now. The base sure looks OK and there will be much more performance coming in the coming weeks.”
Despite the optimism, however, Boullier refused to make predictions on McLaren's potential in Melbourne.
“No numbers, no predictions because it is going to again have the wrong expectations, so I'm not going to say anything," he insisted, "Both cars starting the race would be a challenge and both cars finishing the race would be brilliant!”