McLaren 'doesn’t know' if it can finish first race in Australia
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says he doesn’t know if the team can finish the opening race of the 2017 Formula 1 season in Australia.
The new MCL32 suffered numerous engine-related problems with Honda’s new power unit during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, restricting Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne to just 424 laps, the fewest of any team.
Formula 1 heads to Melbourne's Albert Park circuit for the opening race of the campaign next weekend, but Boullier is unsure that McLaren will be able to complete the 58-lap encounter.
“Oh, I hope so, but I don't know,” was Boullier’s response when asked in an interview with Spanish publication AS if McLaren can reach the chequered flag in Melbourne.
He added: “If we've got a good engine we'll be competitive, if not, we won't be. It's that simple.”
McLaren’s competitiveness in 2017 could determine whether Alonso remains at the Woking-based outfit, with the Spaniard entering the final season of a three-year contract.
Boullier admitted it is "early days" to consider contract talks, adding: “I think Fernando is being honest with us, just as we're being honest with him. He first wanted to see how the new car was. And how the new regulations are. And I think he likes the new F1.
“And he wants to be competitive because he has talent to show the world and to himself. And we need to be competitive to keep him happy. If we're competitive he'll be happy and if not he'll take his own decisions...”