McLaren still holding on to podium hopes

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McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier insists the partnership is making progress, and unlocking the packages full potential will propel McLaren towards the podium.

Hampered by reliability issues affecting its Honda power unit, McLaren is enduring a dismal season this year, scoring just five points in nine races and languishing desperately at the tail end of the constructors standings just ahead of F1 minnow Manor.

On multiple occasions, McLaren management, and indeed its drivers, have exhorted patience, claiming the partnership was a work in progress, gradually ironing out its teething problems as the season wears on.

After Fernando Alonso claimed the final point at Silverstone two weeks ago, Honda motorsport chief Yasuhisda Arai also said  that the team's reliability problems were on the verge of being fixed.

But Boullier, speaking to F1's official website, has also suggested that McLaren-Honda's difficulties remain linked to a fundamental issue associated with the Japanese hybrid power unit's energy recovery system.

“It is not completely down to only power – it has also to do with the driveability of the engine, which has proved very difficult and complex to manage so far,” the Frenchman said.

“Let me give you an example: we all have the same power in terms of electrical power, but some engines are doing a better job in recovering the energy. That is why you see a difference in qualifying and the race."

"We are not able today to unlock the full recovery potential because if we do it creates reliability issues – and that hurts us in terms of performance. But it is there! We just have to find the right remedies to unlock it.”

Boullier is adamant however that once reliability is harnessed and sustained, then outright performance will follow suit. And the team will become a regular in Q3 qualifying with a shot at a top-3 finish.

"If we can unlock the potential we will maybe be fighting – with some luck – for a podium. If you can deploy your MGU-K power on the straights on every lap, that is worth a lot of time. Today we can't do that.”

“We all know the level of commitment from McLaren - that doesn't need to be discussed. But the positive is the level of commitment of Honda, and the fact we know that our cars have not tenths but seconds of potential that can be unlocked."

"We cannot physically use that because we have reliability issues, but if we overcome those we will be able to make major steps forward, believe me.”

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