McLaren Formula 1 racing director Eric Boullier did not mince his words after the team's worst qualifying display of the season so far in Baku on Saturday, calling it "the most painful weekend I have ever had".

McLaren's ongoing struggles with engine partner Honda saw Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne both drop out in Q1 in Azerbaijan, with the fast-flowing nature of the track exposing the power unit's lack of performance.

Alonso and Vandoorne will start 18th and 19th respectively in Baku after being hit with grid penalties for power unit changes, with Boullier delivering a brutally honest verdict after the session.

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When asked where the weekend ranked for McLaren, Boullier said: "I guess you know my answer, you know.

"I am racer like these guys, so I think this is the most painful weekend I have ever had."

A small engine update was brought by Honda to Baku, which Boullier recognised had offered an improvement in that area.

"It's good to see some improvements to performance coming," the Frenchman said.

Honda F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa added: "It is good to show that there was some progress but it's not good enough to catch up with the top runners, so we need to try our best.

"Most of the issues we already have identified the issues, those are the performance areas. They are still under developing so I can't tell exactly what we are doing but I hope we understand the direction.

"So we just need to do more testing and improvement."