Eric Boullier heaped praise on his drivers following the Italian Grand Prix after both Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso drove well only for both to be denied seeing the chequered flag due to mechanical issues.
The racing director of the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team saw Vandoorne and Alonso start eighteenth and nineteenth respectively after both were forced to take new engines, but both made early progress on a track they were not expecting to be competitive.
“Today, as we have seen so many times this season, the talent of our drivers shone, and we held onto hope that we would be able to achieve a positive result against the odds this afternoon,” said Boullier.
“Once again, we were left dejected and dissatisfied. Both drivers made excellent starts and held their own in the pack for as long as they possibly could, on a track where we knew we’d be facing a tough challenge.
“By the end of lap six, Stoffel and Fernando were sitting in thirteenth and fourteenth positions respectively, and began progressively pushing forwards as other cars began to pit.”
Vandoorne was driving superbly to climb from eighteenth on the grid to run competitively inside the top ten, only for his MCL32 to lose power, forcing him into retirement, with Boullier admitting it was both frustrating and heartbreaking for him to be forced to retire with yet another mechanical problem.
“For Stoffel, his day ended with heartbreak,” said Boullier. “His performance all weekend has been stellar, and this afternoon he was running in the top ten for the duration of his race – at one point as high as seventh from eighteenth on the grid.
“It’s both frustrating and a huge shame that once again engine reliability issues have meant that he was not only forced to waste the opportunity to start the race in eighth place on the grid, but that all the hard work he would ultimately put in to make progress through the pack and aim for points would be rendered pointless.
“Like yesterday in Q3, he lost power with what we suspect is the same issue as in qualifying, and he had to retire the car.”
Alonso was unable to match his team-mate’s pace due to a gearbox issue, which he was forced to manage for much of the afternoon, and he ultimately was brought into retire the car with just a handful of laps remaining as the issue continued to worsen.
“Only a few laps into the race, Fernando began to struggle with gearbox issues, which we suspect derived from sensor problems,” said Boullier. “Although his engineers worked hard throughout the race to instruct Fernando with software management tools to try to rectify the issue, it became more and more difficult to monitor the gearbox remotely due to the sensor failures, so we had no choice but to retire the car as a precaution.
“Fernando had been on the back foot for most of the race, and had found it tough to maintain pace and momentum in a car that was tough to manage. Under the circumstances, he drove an excellent, very spirited race fraught with challenges, and it’s a shame we couldn’t get him to the flag.”
Boullier admitted the double retirement at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was a disappointing end to the European season, with the focus now turning to the flyaway races, starting with the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks time.
“For the whole team – who have all worked so hard to give us a fighting chance on this most challenging of tracks – it’s an utterly frustrating and disappointing way to end our Italian Grand Prix weekend and the European season,” said Boullier.