McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has asserted his team would be winning races this year if its MCL32 was paired with a Mercedes power unit rather than a Honda engine
The embattled British team heads into the 2017 F1 season – which kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix next week – on the back foot after suffering a myriad of technical issues stemming from its troublesome Honda V6 Hybrid during pre-season testing.
With the engine managing just 425 laps in eight days, compared with the 1096 attained by the Mercedes team alone, and failing to complete an entire race simulation, Honda has come under increasing pressure to deliver performance and reliability after two years of similar shortcomings.
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Though Boullier has always maintained McLaren is committed to making its high profile partnership with Honda work, when asked by Spanish publication AS
whether the team would be winning if it was still using Mercedes power, he replied: “I think we would. Yes, we'd be winning again [in 2017]."
Boullier's words come after Fernando Alonso pointed his criticism at Honda during the second week of testing, suggesting McLaren is ready to win but the weak leak of the engine is preventing it from even challenging for podiums.
“We have only one problem: that is the power unit,” he said at the time. “There is no reliability and there is no power. I think we are 30 km/h down on every straight.
“When you are 30 km/h down on every straight, it is difficult also to have a feeling on the car. Everything feels good, but when you arrive to normal speed you don't know what is going to happen.”
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Indeed, Boullier admits the ongoing strife could be the impetus for Alonso – who was otherwise praiseworthy of his McLaren MCL32 chassis during testing – to leave at the end of his contract this year.
“He wants to be competitive because he has talent to show the world and to himself," said Boullier of his star driver. "And we need to be competitive to keep him happy. If we're competitive he'll be happy and if not he'll take his own decisions."
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