McLaren-Honda heads to Austria on the back of a double retirement in Canada, but the odds of an upturn in the team's fortunes at the Spielberg track appear meager. With only four points scored to date, and dogged by persistent reliability and power unit problems, the McLaren-Honda partnership is still seeking to extract itself from the doldrums.
“We can’t deny that retiring both cars in Montreal was a bitter blow, " acknowledged Eric Boullier, McLaren's racing director. "But, undeterred, we quickly shifted our attention to Austria. What’s important to remember is that, despite the disappointment of the last race, we’re always learning and improving, so we mustn’t be too disheartened, and instead we must keep our focus firmly on the road ahead."
McLaren's lack of reliability has obviously hindered the outfit's progress towards establishing a steady and solid foundation from which it can build performance, but Boullier still insists an upturn is near.
“Reliability has been a key issue during our development push, particularly on Fernando’s car. It’s a crucial element of a race weekend that we need to improve in order to continue making progress. We’re getting there, but, like some other teams, we’re now getting to the stage of the season where faults and failures could result in penalties. But those are the rules, and they’re the same for everyone."
While relatively short in length, Austria's Red Bull Ring is definitely a power circuit with long straights similar to Montreal's layout, which does not necessarily bode well for Honda's relatively weak power unit.
“Performance-wise, we expect the race to be another tricky weekend, as it features heavy braking from high speeds and similar stop-start characteristics to Montreal, " Boullier said. "However, before we can even think about performance, we need to work even harder from the very beginning of our race programmes on Wednesday, to ensure all our processes, hardware and software configurations, and our entire approach to the weekend, are flawless, so as to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to get both cars to the chequered flag."