McLaren heading to Oz ‘with a number of unknowns’

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Eric Boullier admits McLaren-Honda is entering this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix “with a number of unknowns” after the team could not complete its setup work for Melbourne in pre-season testing.

Although it enjoyed smoother preparations this winter, McLaren-Honda still lost one day and a half of running due to a hydraulic and coolant leaks.

Boullier revealed in Barcelona that the team was not running the full 2016-spec car in pre-season testing and promised “much more performance” on the MP4-31 come Melbourne.

“We are certainly a step ahead of where we were this time last year in terms of preparation – we have much more mileage under our belts and we’ve performed most of the necessary system checks that we were still working on during race weekends in 2015,” said the McLaren-Honda racing director.

“That said, we didn’t manage to complete our final configuration and set-up work for the first race, so we go to Melbourne with a number of unknowns. It won’t be an easy start to the weekend in that sense, since we’ll need to concentrate on setting the car up for each session and readying the final specification of our package as soon as we get to Albert Park.”

Echoing the sentiment of star driver Fernando Alonso, Boullier agrees no predictions can be made as to where McLaren-Honda stands in the competitive order at the moment.

“Until the other teams fully show their hand in the same conditions, we won’t have any idea where we stack up in comparison, but our priority is to focus on extracting the most out of our own performance, while still maintaining reliability. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but as usual we’ll work hard, in the hope of faring better in Australia than we did last year.”

Deputising for the sidelined Alonso 12 months ago, then test driver Kevin Magnussen could not even make it to the start in Melbourne as his car broke down on his way to the grid. Meanwhile, Jenson Button finished 12th and last two laps down from race winner Lewis Hamilton.

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