Badger attended McLaren’s media session with Eric Boullier earlier today, and despite looking to the positives of what has been achieved, he admitted that the issues from the first week of testing which have again reared their head in week 2 had put the relationship with Honda under the “maximum” strain. Boullier confirmed the solid contract between the team and their engine partner, as they await the delivery of an updated spec engine that will hopefully resolve the issue that is holding the team back.

Stoffel Vandoorne had completed 34 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya before returning to the garage with an electrical issue, and after the team completed the engine change, he was able to take that total to 80 laps for the day.

Read on to hear Eric’s comments from that press gathering earlier.

Photo: Sarah Merritt

On possible concerns over reliability:

“Not very much concern yet, let’s say. Obviously we got hurt in our job to understand the car, develop the car, validate some parts, but the process today is more about generating data as much as we can and to feed the machine back in Woking, and make sure the correlation is working with CFD, wind tunnel or anything else, because everything is now based on simulation. So obviously we would like more laps because we want to test more parts, but the few we have done were good, and the correlation was good, so we can now build on predictions, shall we say. So not concerned yet, but the rest, I leave in the hands of Honda, to make sure they investigate properly, they address it properly, and we have to rely on our partner that they will do it, and believe they will do it.”

On the Honda marriage – after 3 years, might there be a contractual “divorce”?

“We have a contract in place – actually I think its 7 years in any marriage we’d say that for, not 3, and we don’t think about it, because there is a solid contract between us, a long term contract, and obviously we want to build on it even if it’s not the best or ideal times yet.”

On their being multiple origins of the problems:

“From the outside world, it may look like it’s a different problem, but at least two are the same, so it’s not as big a concern.”

“One thing is that we are running the same spec as last week, and that doesn’t mean there are any changes or modifications done. I think the next spec will have addressed part of this problem, or most of the problem.”

On the amount of the strain these problems are putting on the Honda relationship:

“The maximum, but we are in Formula 1 and we are racing, and we have to perform, so the pressure is obviously huge. We put the maximum pressure on our relationship with Honda, and the same from them, so we can’t put a foot wrong. We need to be able to deliver the best car as well, so it’s from both sides.”

On what more McLaren can do to help Honda with the issues – or is the ball in their court?

“It’s always been in their court, if I may say, because we are partners, but they are responsible for the engine part, and we are for the chassis part. We have a special relationship, obviously, like a works team, so we are very much involved in both organisations, and support we can bring, we will. If we can do more, we’ll do more, but I don’t want any distraction from the chassis programme as well.”

Photo: Sarah Merritt

On the stress this situation places on the drivers:

“With both drivers you have to react differently. With Stoffel today, he is fresh, young and motivated, and even if he is disappointed because he doesn’t have the car to perform well, he will recover and this is just something to learn. With Fernando, he has more experience and he wants a competitive car. He also knows, and this is something I keep saying, from day 1, he knows the project. He knows everything and he knows how we develop, and where we are going. His patience is based on his own expectations, and he has a full understanding or at least a full view of what is going on.”

On whether a second Honda-power team would help the situation:

“I’m not sure, to be honest with you. You can do most of the work on dyno’s, even if as you can see, there are system reliability issues. A second team would be a distraction at this stage.”

On when the next spec Honda engine is expected:

“(Smiling) Ask Honda!

Based on this testing, we can expect to have a few engine changes, but obviously they will have addressed this by the start of the new season, or at least quickly at the start of the new season.”

On the chassis itself:

“The car reacts well to any changes, so the drivers on that point are quite happy. Obviously I read some comments, which like Donald Trump would say are ‘fake news!’ I’m joking! Some comments have been made on Turns 1, 2, and 3, but it is not the chassis. Remember these engines are hybrid engines, which mean very early back on throttle, and you have electric power which is on/off, which depending on drivability you may have some issues, and that actually is the case. We had some drivability issues, which means when you’re back on power, you lose the back of the car, so the car looks nervous, but there is nothing wrong other than drivability issues, or let’s say not warming up of tyres well enough. The car we have here is the car launch spec. We will try different bits, if we can, but we will not run with the full spec, and the full spec will be run in Australia.”

On how difficult development work is when running at reduced power:

“It does affect your development understanding, at least. If you are not running fast enough, you don’t put the right energy in the tyres, in the brakes or in the car. Your targets are different, so there are a lot of consequences to running 15-18kph slower in a straight line. But still, we can gather most of the data just by running the car. This is to make sure that the correlation with the simulation back in Woking is good, which then allows us to keep the same process and the same way to design and develop the car, and then we can make predictions for the future. It would be easier if we had the same speed as the others, as then you have a better understanding on some different factors.”

On recovering the missed testing over the remaining 3 days:

“I think any laps that you don’t do or any track time that you don’t cover are a loss when you have only 8 days. There is a minimum to reach, which is for us the understanding of the car, and again back to correlation – that’s the minimum we need for us, McLaren, and then we can operate from this. We have enough experience, and we know what we can do, but ideally you want more mileage because the closer you go to the limit, the better it is.”