Boullier believes that Fernando Alonso can be champion
Eric Boullier, racing director at McLaren Honda spoke to AS about the car, the project and their Asturian driver who he thinks can succeed if he has the faith in the team.
He said hello, apologised for the delay, sat down and opened his hands. Eric Boullier was now ready to answer some questions from AS. He looks different, calmer, confident, although he knows that they have still not achieved anything. Nothing. "De momento" (For the moment), he said in Spanish.
How are things going?
As the English say, work in progress.
What do you mean by that?
It is going well. The first thing is to make progress. At McLaren we want to be winners again, winning races, the title and with Fernando, of course, for me it's also important. I am not satisfied with being tenth or eleventh or even second or third. But, it's now time for testing. If you compare Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari it took them three years to improve their engines. It's taken Honda less time, but we're getting better and in my opinion we are already as good as Ferrari in terms of reliability, we are back in terms of energy, we have more speed, more engine power and the responsibility of McLaren is to keep improving. I think right now we are doing our best to improve the car but we don't have sufficient engine power and that is what we are working on. And there is clear progress.
How is the relationship between McLaren and Honda now?
Good, good, much better. Yes, I think we have improved as a team. A couple of years ago there was a lot of pressure, but the relationship is good now.
What is the true goal for this year? Is a podium finish realistic?
We know that the fans may be frustrated, it's logical, but we don't want to give them unrealistic expectations. We just want to keep improving the car and the engine, and as soon as possible, maybe next year, have a competitive car.
Next year the rules will change. Does this represent an opportunity for McLaren?
It is, but not only in 2017, but this year too. Right now we're working to give ourselves the chance to catch our rivals like Mercedes and Ferrari. And in 2017 we can be competitive.
Let's talk about Alonso, he is in at a key stage of his career and it's unclear whether his third title or his retirement is closer.
I don't think Alonso is ready to retire. I am sure that if he believes in the McLaren Honda project he will end up being champion.
You say that with real conviction... Do McLaren want to renew Alonso's contract?
Yes, yes, of course. I really believe in the project, I see progress, we are moving forward. McLaren is prepared, and as soon as we have the full package, chassis, engine etc... we will be ready to move upwards. I'm sure. And I hope that will be with Fernando, of course.
Still on the Spaniard, you have a driver who is generally considered the best on the grid, but has gone ten years without winning the world title. Is he really still the best?
Yes. Without a doubt. Definitely.
I respect Fernando, he is a competitive driver, he is a very intelligent driver, and he is good from the practice runs through until Sunday. That is the reason why he is the best. He is definitely a leader.
On that we can agree, but the thing is that he still hasn't won...
Never mind the past ten years without winning a title, he is one of the greats. To win now, you need to have the best car. the best team and be the best driver, and if you do not have that, it won't work. Lewis Hamilton is winning now, but if Alonso had the car that we are working on ready now, he we would be winning too. Without a doubt.
There's so much more to analyse, Eric. Let's continue another day.
Sure. Thanks very much.