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Interview with McLaren team principal Eric Boullier

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Interview with McLaren team boss Eric Boullier
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Where is McLaren-Honda?

B oullier: From the McLaren side, we're on target. Not yet in terms of the engine. But there are good signs of progress. At least we were able to drive the second week of testing and develop the car. That was not possible last year.

Are the old weak points of the engine also the new ones?

Boullier: No, I don't want to say that. We are now in an evolution. Problems arise.

One of the biggest problems last year was the use of electrical power. Has that been resolved?

Boullier: Yes. Saving and tapping the electrical power works much better.

What do the lap times of Alonso and Button mean compared to the competition?

Boullier: Alonso drove his fastest lap with the first version of the MP4-31. From the sixth day of testing, we began to equip the car with development parts. The car is not yet where we want it to be. The engine has not yet reached the numbers that were planned for 2016. We have quite a bit of lap time up our sleeves until Melbourne. That's why we don't yet know exactly where we are. Fernando thinks we can get a couple of podiums this year. I think that should be possible.

There is more freedom in engine development. Will that help Honda?

Boullier: It helps, but you can't make up for two years behind Mercedes that easily.

Were the development token stand Melbourne already used in the engine during the test drives in Jerez?

Boullier: From the token it was the Melbourne engine. But the software is still being worked on until Melbourne. We expect a good deal of performance there. Depending on how you can move the knock limit, there is 30 hp in it. We also have tokens up our sleeve because we introduced parts of the 2016 engine back in 2015. I'm not saying we're beating Mercedeswill. But we can still improve massively.

Honda is isolated in Japan. Have the Japanese become a little more open?

Boullier: They are, but Japan as a location will always remain a logistical challenge. Part of the work is now being done in Milton Keynes, England.

Alonso said that McLaren in Spain could have the best chassis in the field. What is his optimism based on?

Boullier: So far we have kept everything we promised him. He sees what we're planning from the simulations. They are now absolutely transferrable to the track. He trusts these numbers and liked what he saw. I was hired by McLaren to make sure we got the best car on the road. The car is my area of ​​responsibility. I can't do anything for the engine.

How did McLaren turn things around with the chassis?

Boullier: You need three years for a concept to mature. There was no continuity after 2012. McLaren has developed in different directions. Last year we decided to start with a blank sheet of paper. When we started we didn't have the best car by far. At the end of the 2015 season, the McLaren was the third best chassis. The GPS data in the winding sector 3 confirm this. We caught up massively in a year. The step over the winter and the development up to the GP Spain will bring us even closer to the top cars.

Alonso is going into the new season with ambitious goals. He speaks of podiums and victories. Are his claims a ticking time bomb?

Boullier: No extra pressure. We want to win, not just Fernando. McLaren has to win. If we take Honda to a certain level this year and put one of the best cars in the field, Fernando will have fun again.

What role will Jost Capito play?

Boullier: I have not hired him. You have to ask Ron Dennis. His experience is sure to help the McLaren Group. McLaren Racing is only part of it. He has experience with major automobile manufacturers. This can be helpful in the relationship with Honda.

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