It has been a nightmare start to 2017 for McLaren-Honda and their drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. The first week of testing hasn’t just exposed unreliability with the Honda power-unit, but problems that the Japanese manufacturer can’t promise that they will have solved by the time the Australian Grand Prix arrives later this month.
Everyone in F1 expected that by year three, the McLaren-Honda partnership would have come to fruition, but unreliability still seemingly plagues the team, with two Honda issues in the opening two days of testing preventing the team from gaining good mileage in the MCL32.
“We are all disappointed by these first tests, because we could not do what we wanted. I do not know if Honda can give us the guarantees we ask for. But we absolutely need to see significant progress.”
– Eric Boullier
The guarantee in question is simply greater competitiveness, so the early signs are that McLaren will be struggling in 2017, and may have another year of midfield anonymity. Honda’s Yasuke Hasegawa added,
“The oil tank is fixed, but what worries me now is the problem of the second day. It could affect the start of the season, but I hope not and that we can be reliable in Australia.”
– Yasuke Hasegawa
This general lack of competitiveness is going to be a difficult pill for Fernando Alonso to swallow. His return to McLaren has people wondering what might have been for his career had he stayed at Ferrari. Boullier was quick to explain how the Spanish driver has taken the early setbacks.
“After six months everybody said it would be a tragedy with him, a mess, but in the third year he is still here. Of course he is not happy, because he wants to fight to win. It is up to us to bring McLaren to the level it deserves.”
– Eric Boullier
This year was supposed to provide McLaren with an opportunity to climb the order with an emphasised focus on aero. But the start has been poor on the side of the power unit, and if these comments from key personnel in the team aren’t a method to make other team’s drop their guard on McLaren, then it looks like Alonso might look elsewhere once this season is over. If the MCL32 doesn’t live up to the bill, who could blame him?