Eric Boullier says he was disappointed Jenson Button wasn't given the chance to show the full potential of the improving McLaren-Honda during the Bahrain Grand Prix on a weekend where he was overshadowed by his point-scoring F1 debutant team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.
Button retired early from the Bahrain race whilst running ahead of Vandoorne, with Boullier believing he could have ascended to seventh position at the finish had he not suffered Honda power unit problems.
With Vandoorne – making his F1 debut in place of the injured Fernando Alonso – going on to finish tenth and score a point, attention naturally revolved around the Belgian and his eye-catching weekend performance, which included out-qualifying Button.
However, Boullier was quick to acknowledge Button's efforts and was frustrated he wasn't given the chance to show the steps forward made on the MP4-31.
“He did a good weekend. He didn't put a foot wrong and he is did a very good job, but to be fair, we believe Jenson could have had a good result today, at least seventh. That could have been a different story.
“With the pace we had with the car, and he was very happy with the car balance. We could save a lot of fuel on the first lap of the race and then you know with the pace we had with Stoffel and the pace we had with JB where we could have been. Obviously it is if, but it would have been somewhere around there.”
Even so, Boullier remained impressed with Vandoorne's efforts, which will strengthen his hopes of landing a full-time race seat in 2017.
“I think having done such a weekend for him it is a massive boost to his confidence. It is also a boost I guess for his career. I know a lot of people have some eyes on him. So it is good for him.”
Should McLaren consider Vandoorne for one of its own seats, it is Button that is likely to be under threat as his contract comes to an end this year, while Alonso has a deal in place for 2017.