Race Director Eric Boullier believes that McLaren–Honda could have been fighting with the Williams Martini Racing team at the Russian Grand Prix, had it not been for the lengths the Woking based squad had to go to with fuel saving.
The Frenchman believes they lost around fifty seconds due to the fuel hungry Honda engine and that Fernando Alonso was in fact lapping 1.2 seconds quicker than Felipe Massa at the end of the race. Speaking to Autosport, Boullier stated that the gap would have been non-existent if they could have raced without such restrictions.
“We can see that we are the team that have a lot of fuel saving for obvious reasons, but with Fernando you could see towards the end of the race he was more than 1.2s faster [per lap],” said Boullier. “So without fuel saving we’d save another 50s which we would’ve had at the end of the race.
“If you look, we are with Williams [without fuel-saving] so it’s the kind of progress we need to go [further]. But that the pace was good and the drivers were happy with the car balance. Fernando had some fun.”
The Spaniard’s team-mate also finished in the points at the Russian Grand Prix, claiming McLaren’s first double points haul so far this season, which can only be a positive boost for the squad. They also came the closest yet to making it through to Q3, with Jenson Button‘s time in Q2 just one tenth off the final spot. Both encouraging signs for the squad with Boullier stating that their race pace had been better than they had anticipated.
Going into the European leg of the F1 calendar, the whole team are upbeat with the progress they are now making, and confident they will only get stronger from here on in.