‘McLaren have a mountain to climb’


McLaren's nightmare start to the 2015 season continued in Australia on Saturday as they qualified last with Eric Boullier admitting they "have a mountain to climb".

This year marked a new era for the team as Honda returned as McLaren's engine partner while Fernando Alonso also rejoined the Woking team, but they have struggled so far.

They were well off the pace during pre-season while they also lost double World Champion Alonso for this weekend's race at Albert Park after he suffered a concussion during the second test in Barcelona.

However, things went from bad to worse in qualifying as Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen will start at the back of the grid as they were lapping three seconds off the front-runners during Q1. 

Racing director Boullier admits they are all unhappy with the results so far, but says they will turn things around.

"I need hardly say that everyone at McLaren-Honda is enormously dissatisfied with today’s qualifying result," he said. "We’ve got a mountain to climb, but all I can say is: climb that mountain we certainly will.

"McLaren exists to win. That ambition burns as brightly now as ever it has. Equally, racing is ingrained in Honda’s corporate culture. Throughout its history, on two wheels and four, Honda has raced and won at the very highest levels. And the bespoke new racing R&D facility at Sakura is state-of-the-art.
"So Honda will do whatever is required to win, and so will McLaren. And win, eventually, we definitely will."

Button, who will start P17 after a 1:31.422, says they knew they were going to struggle, and he doesn't expect an easy race come Sunday.

"This level of performance wasn’t a surprise for us: we knew from winter testing that the pace wasn’t there, so we knew we weren’t going to be competitive here," the 2009 World Champion said. 

"However, there’s a good feeling about the car – I know we’re so far off, but the basic car is there beneath me, and we’re adding to our experience and learning with every lap we do. 

"And that’s really impressed me – we’ve gone through our first race weekend together, and we’ve managed to solve each issue that’s confronted us. There’s just a lot of work needed to add power and downforce – but this is an important car for the future of McLaren-Honda.

"It’s going to be a really difficult race for us – we haven’t done a race distance yet, and my longest run is 12 laps – but we want to do the best we can because there’s so much learning to be had.

"It’ll be a tough day, but we’ll be doing our absolute best."