Eric Boullier insists that McLaren-Honda is still united despite a nightmare start to their Formula 1 project, but this is not stopping Takahiro Hachigo, Honda Motor Co.’s new president and CEO from attending the forthcoming Austrian Grand Prix to assess the situation first hand.
Star driver Fernando Alonso let his frustration show on the radio during the Canadian grand prix, but Boullier says the Spaniard knows 2015 is little more than a “test year”.
“It’s a strange situation for Alonso,” said Corriere dello Sport. “A star who has to concede to drivers who are not as good but better equipped.”
Tuttosport added: “Alonso is yet to prove that his move to McLaren was not a mistake.”
Boullier smiled: “If it is still like this next year, Fernando maybe will go mad. But he is happy with the team and where he is now.”
Whether McLaren-Honda as a whole is happy could be another question. The ultimate test could be in Austria next weekend, where Honda is expecting more from its upgraded engine and McLaren plans to unleash a raft of car improvements.
At the same time, international media is declaring that McLaren-Honda’s performance in 2015 has been little short of embarrassing, and far outweighing the crisis being suffered by Red Bull and Renault.
But Boullier insists that he will not let McLaren-Honda turn into that sort of “media sh*tstorm”.
“Throwing a brick or pointing a finger at someone does not help the situation or make it go away,” agreed Jenson Button.
But the situation is perhaps particularly difficult for the 2009 world champion, as he is struggling to demonstrate his potential in a poor car and under pressure from McLaren’s rising stars including Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Button said it is “not true” McLaren is already in the process of deciding to oust him.
So while insisting “throwing a brick” will not help, 35-year-old Button agrees that simply exonerating the obviously struggling Honda is also no solution.
“You have to say what needs to be improved and you work towards it,” said the Briton. “You just don’t want to do it in public.”
AS claims Honda is still about 70 horse power down on the leading power units in F1. Boullier admits Honda is “far behind”.
“There is so much pressure on this team,” Button conceded. “We are trying to be quicker but when you do that, you risk reliability. It is a really difficult balance. You think we all just say ‘Sh*t happens’ after the race?
“We won’t get a podium this year,” he acknowledged. “Next year will be a lot more exciting than 2015 but you cannot just jump to 2016. You have to do the work, otherwise you don’t deserve the good results.”