Eric Boullier was 100 per cent certain Fernando Alonso would quit McLaren in 2017
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has revealed that he truly believed Fernando Alonso would call it quits in 2017 after the Honda engine proved to be less powerful and less reliable than its predecessor.
In an Amazon Original documentary, which delves into McLaren-Honda's disastrous 2017 season, Boullier is seen meeting with McLaren COO Jonathan Neale following the opening pre-season test. During that meeting, Boullier tells Neale that he's "100 per cent sure" Alonso will quit the team after it became apparent just how bad the situation was.
"He's going to say 'you know what guys? Ciao bello (goodbye)', he will not stay. I am 100 per cent sure he will not stay," the Frenchman says.
"After this testing, obviously Fernando is quite pissed off. He is clearly saying 'I may reconsider my position to race because I'm not going to survive another year like this'.
"My main worry at this time is not to have the team collapsing. I know the domino effect as well, you know.
"I mean, in this business you know how it works...when you are weak, people they come, they just poach who they want. It takes years to build an F1 team but you can kill it in six months."
Later in the final episode of the documentary Neale addresses the McLaren workforce and apologises for the situation and gives the first hint that McLaren would end its relationship with the Japanese manufacturer – which they officially did several months later, striking up a new deal with Renault for 2018.
"It was a shock to us, it was a shock to all of us. I apologise for that," he said. "We set clearly competitive targets for what we believed would take to be competitive this year. I'm pleased to say that from a McLaren perspective, the engineering team, largely hit all the targets. As far as I'm concerned, the McLaren team got the job done during the winter.
"A line has been crossed [by Honda]. We are done. We've done that experiment about just trusting what is going to happen. So we need to find a new way, we need to find a new plan. McLaren will not travel hopefully during the course of this season."