McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier has admitted that, while the team is encouraged by the progress shown during a difficult pre-season testing programme, he remains unsure how the new MP4-30 will fare on its competition debut in Australia this weekend.

Of all the teams, with the obvious exception of the absent Manor-Marussia, McLaren endured the toughest pre-season campaign as niggling problems meant that it struggled to rack up laps with its Honda-powered car. Although Jenson Button was able to gradually increase his track time over the three sessions held in Jerez and Barcelona, the team was further hampered by the enforced withdrawal of Fernando Alonso, and heads to Melbourne with less data than any of its main rivals.

Boullier, meanwhile, continues to put a positive spin on the progress that was achieved across the twelve days in Spain, even if he stops short of predicting an upset in Oz.

"The Australian Grand Prix marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work and dedication from everyone within McLaren-Honda," the Frenchman confirmed, "It's been a relatively short winter for us and there have proven to be testing times, but I am confident that we are moving forwards, and the race in Melbourne is just the beginning of a huge development in performance throughout the season.

"It is obviously disappointing that we weren't able to do as many kilometres in testing as we had hoped, but we are undeterred and working relentlessly to improve the reliability of the MP4-30, and ultimately, make progress in terms of our raw pace. Despite our difficulties, our package shows a lot of promise - we completed a lot of valuable system checks and set-up work during testing, and the data from Jenson's 101 laps on the second day of the final test in Barcelona is very encouraging.

"Of course, how this will translate to the Albert Park circuit, and especially relative to our competitors, is a difficult question, but there is complete focus, commitment and dedication from everyone in the team and we are very excited to debut the McLaren-Honda MP4-30 on track. I am confident in the progress we have made so far to get to this point, but we know there is a long road ahead in terms of our development and every kilometre will count."

The Australian Grand Prix also marks Honda's return as an F1 engine supplier, as it embarks on its first season under the V6 regulations, and its reunion with McLaren after 23 years, and Boullier admits that Friday morning practice will be tinged with emotion.

"There is always a huge amount of excitement around at the start of the new season, for both the fans and the teams, and even more so this year, since this is the beginning of my second year at McLaren and the start of a new era with McLaren-Honda," he reasoned, "We are ready for the challenge ahead of us, and cannot wait for the car to roll out of the garage this weekend for the first time at a grand prix; it will be a very poignant moment for the whole team."



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