Having endured a torrid reunion in 2015 amid poor power unit performance and reliability, the British team and Japanese manufacturer have made noticeable headway in the off-season but their package remains off the front-running pace.
Indeed, McLaren has yet to place any of its MP4-31 in Q3 this year and only has one point in the bank, courtesy of reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne’s 10th-place finish in Bahrain.
“As soon as our rivals turn up their engines, it becomes very difficult for us,” Boullier told French magazine Auto Hebdo. “For the season-opening race in Australia, we actually had less horsepower than in Abu Dhabi last year and we got it back in Bahrain. In the mean time, the other teams have not been hanging about.”
We know, for instance, where Mercedes is at the moment because we have the numbers and I can tell you we still have a long way to go.”
Auto Hebdo also reports that McLaren sent European engine engineers to Honda’s facilities in Sakura, Japan last January in a bid to help its engine partner.
Since then, they have been working in collaboration with their Japanese colleagues on a brand new power unit upgrade, quite different from the current specification. The evolution will be ready for the Canadian Grand Prix at the earliest, or the British GP at the latest.
“It’s a mixed solution, which should enable us to have higher ambitions in the second half of the seasons,” Boullier added.
According to Auto Motor und Sport, Honda would be currently working on a spark ignition trick that Mercedes has successfully pioneered. The German-language publication adds that the new engine will only be fully ready by 2017.