Eric Boullier: Change to Renault was Necessary
With only one driver in the top-15 in the year-end standings, it was clear that McLaren needed to make a change moving forward. That’s why for 2018, they will be powered by Renault instead of Honda.
Team Principal Eric Boullier knew they were in trouble early last season, with concerning comments surfacing as early as February. With that in hand, discussions of change became apparent immediately as he went to management with the data, and told them they couldn’t suffer through another year.
“We had a tough first year with Honda, we had a tough second year, and had expected progress good enough to get us back to where we belong – but Barcelona showed that we would go backwards and that was absolutely not an option,” Boullier said. “I obviously warned them about the consequences of another year of no results, where you keep everybody afloat. We have a new team, which has been reconstructed in the last three years: new people, very good new people – competitive people who used to win – and the danger was we’d lose them. The perception of a team is still very much based on drivers, because they are the faces of the team, but for me the real danger was losing those people. That was the discussion at the very beginning of the season.”
It was understandably a tough decision to make, as everyone had dreams of reviving the classic McLaren-Honda partnership in Formula 1. But Boullier said they were able to end the partnership with respect on both sides, without any fights, screaming, or finger pointing.
“We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand. There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work. That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”
Despite their struggles, Boullier was able to take away some positives, including seven top-10’s with a season-best sixth by Fernando Alonso at Hungroring, despite suffering a total of 18 DNFs.
“When you look at what we have achieved in terms of car performance – chassis performance – we know that we are back on the podium, at the top,” he commented. “That for me is a huge reward – that we have achieved this in difficult circumstances. The other positive I take from the past three years is that the team is really joined now. We have been suffering so much for three years, but at the same time nobody has left the team. Everybody agreed that this team will be winning again. There is a huge trust and confidence in what we are trying to achieve and because of that we have gone up, up, up, keeping developing this car.”
Now entering the new year, the door is wide open with possibility.
“I think it would be wrong to draft any expectations now,” Boullier said. “I am a fan of the motto ‘Over-deliver but under-promise’! So no promises. Let’s see where we will be.”
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