Eric Boullier admitted it was disappointing to see Jenson Button retire from his final Grand Prix after just twelve laps in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, although it was pleasing to see Fernando Alonso drive another strong race to finish inside the points in tenth.
The Racing Director of the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team had hoped that Button could have ended his career with a good result but his suspension failure on the run down to turn eleven early on at the Yas Marina Circuit put paid to that, but Boullier felt the Briton could be proud of the career he has had at the Woking-based team in the past six years.
“Fernando drove faultlessly to 10th place today, earning us a single world championship point; but, without wishing to detract from yet another strong drive from him, today was all about Jenson as far as we were concerned,” said Boullier.
“I’m sad and sorry that his race ended in suspension failure – but, having said that, the minor placing he thereby lost will mean little to him in what I gather from my British colleagues is called the grand scheme of things.
“His McLaren record speaks for itself: eight Grand Prix wins, some of them utterly superb, and seven great years in which he won the hearts of McLaren’s staff and fans alike. On behalf of us all, JB, I salute you.”
Although Button will still be around McLaren in some form for the next two seasons, Boullier believes the team will have an outstanding mix of experience and potential when Alonso is joined by Stoffel Vandoorne.
“Next year, of course, he’ll still be around, assisting us in many ways, but racing our cars will be Fernando, arguably the greatest racing driver in the world today, and Stoffel [Vandoorne], whose potential is almost limitless,” said Boullier.
“If you regard a balance of proven experience and youthful promise as the optimal blend in a Formula 1 driver line-up, and many people do, then I challenge you to name a better pairing than our 2017 duo.”
Looking back at 2016, Boullier gave praise to engine suppliers Honda for significantly improving their power unit during the season, which enabled the team to have some excellent results this year, although a first podium finish since they reunited at the beginning of 2015 still eludes them.
“As the curtain goes down on 2016, I want to praise Honda for the impressive progress they’ve made during the course of the past season, and I’d like to thank our sponsor-partners also for their crucial ongoing support,” said Boullier.
“Our staff deserve a big collective pat on the back too: in difficult circumstances they’ve played a blinder – as our mechanics tell me a job well done is best described.
“And, last but very far from least, I want to pay tribute to our fans, the best in the world. Your faith and loyalty are a constant inspiration to us, and I thank you for your unstinting devotion to the cause encompassed pithily in the well-worn hashtag #BelieveInMcLarenHonda.”