It’s been a tumultuous season for the McLaren-Honda partnership, but racing director Eric Boullier believes that the team has become stronger since the end of the European stage of the 2017 championship.
Just before the Singapore race, McLaren and Honda confirmed they were splitting at the end of the season. That same weekend, Stoffel Vandoorne picked up seventh place for the team. He did the same again in the following round in Malaysia.
Unfortunately neither Vandoorne nor Fernando Alonso were able to crack the top ten at Honda’s home race in Japan. But that didn’t discourage Boullier.
“This Asian triple-header has been a positive one for the whole team,” he insisted. “We’ve scored some useful points.
“I certainly think that we come out of it stronger as a team than when we went in.
“We’ll definitely put that momentum to good use,” he added. “We’ll push hard in these final four races with a renewed momentum and confidence.”
Alonso proved that the team had good form in qualifying in Japan, making it through to Q3. However a 35-place grid penalty for using additional power unit elements dumped him to the back of the grid.
Those penalties promoted Vandoorne into the top ten for the start of the race. However, first lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari wrecked his prospects of picking up more points for the team.
“[It] was just not our day, despite two strong and relentless drives from Fernando and Stoffel,” admitted Boullier, adding that Alonso had driven “with fearsome commitment.”
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After three races over four weekend, in some of the most gruelling conditions on the calendar, Boullier was keen to praise his team’s recent efforts.
“[Thanks] to the whole team for their indefatigable spirit and hard work over five gruelling weeks overseas,” he said.
“Theirs has been a tremendous effort, and I am remarkably grateful for their sheer effort and commitment.
“Second, I want to pay my regards, as ever, to the remarkable Suzuka fans. Their spirit, and enthusiasm is incredibly inspiring.
“While we couldn’t reward them with a strong result today, we’re grateful for their support, their passion for McLaren Honda, and for Formula 1 as a whole.
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