McLaren-Honda is beginning to play down its chances of bursting off the grid at the very start of the 2015 season.
After its almost two decades with Mercedes power, the British team has struggled for laps and pace in the early phase of its new works partnership with returning Honda.
Until now, McLaren has been talking up its chances with the so-called ‘size-zero’ MP4-30 car and the innovative turbo V6, but team figures now admit that Australia might be looming too soon for the new British-Japanese project.
“With a new concept and engine partner, obviously the less we run the more difficult it’s going to be to catch up, or let’s say, the later we will be ready to compete,” team boss Eric Boullier told Press Association.
“Every time we can’t achieve all our targets in terms of mileage or development we push back the date where we are able to exploit 100 per cent of our car and our power unit to fight for the win,” he added.
Indeed, McLaren-Honda was the least reliable and the slowest car on track at Jerez last week, the first four-day test of just three similar outings before Melbourne.
Star recruit Fernando Alonso was the slowest overall, his aggregate laptime no less than 15 seconds behind the pacesetting Ferraris.
And the MP4-30 was also dead last on the mileage list, with its 79 laps utterly dwarfed by the 516 racked up by 2014 champions Mercedes.
When asked to set a target for 2015, Alonso was quoted on Wednesday by Spanish media: “First we need to see how competitive we are.
“In the first test we could not run with maximum power,” he revealed.
“Once we have all the power, once we are in the second or third race of the championship, and we see how fast we are, then we will get a target for this first year,” said Alonso.
Alonso, who has returned to McLaren after a five-year stint at Ferrari, is famous for his love of Japanese tradition, has a big Samurai tattoo on his back and often ‘tweets’ from old Samurai texts.
“I love Japan,” he admitted, “Japanese culture, tradition … Honda has always been very attractive after the successful partnership they had with McLaren in the 80s and I feel very privileged.”
His target for the future, therefore, is clear.
“The goal is to win the championship; we want to win, I came here to win,” said Alonso.
“I do not know if it will be in the first year, second year, third year, but I hope it is as soon as possible,” he explained on a visit to Japan this week.
“I saw many talented people when I visited the facilities at Sakura. I saw many advances compared to the other teams; scientific, technological advances.
“I saw a lot of passion and discipline at the first test, all the engineers and mechanics of Honda and McLaren working together.
“That’s something that is part of the DNA of Honda and I am very happy to be a part of it,” he added. (GMM)