On the face of it, the Anglo-Japanese collaboration is set for a third consecutive tough campaign as Honda grapples with the new design of its power unit.
“I see faces of anguish and desperation as they are missing more than 100 horse power and 30kph on the straights, and they will not recover easily, if at all,” former McLaren team manager Jo Ramirez told Cadena Cope.
“The concept is better than they had before, but I cannot believe they are so short on power,” he added. “I think Honda are a little lost.”
Indeed, rumours that either Honda will quit F1 or McLaren will dump the Japanese marque are already circulating.
Team boss Boullier told the Spanish daily AS that the McLaren chassis is “good”.
“I don’t know if the engine will be able to compete with Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, but if we have a good engine we can be competitive. Otherwise not, it’s that simple,” said the Frenchman.
As for Alonso’s expiring contract, the fact the Spaniard recently said he will race beyond his 2017 deal has been interpreted by some as an invitation for other teams to tempt him away from McLaren-Honda.
“People say a lot of things,” said Boullier, “but I think Fernando is being honest with us just like we are with him.
“He likes this new F1, and the next step is to be more competitive. If we are competitive, he will be happy.”
As for whether talks about 2018 have started, Boullier answered: “Yes, but it’s too soon. But of course we have spoken.”
Finally, Boullier was asked how many times he has wondered where McLaren would be in the pecking order if it had stayed with Mercedes power beyond 2014.
“Let’s just say a few times,” he laughed.
Asked if McLaren would be winning races, Boullier added: “I think so. Yes, we would be winning again.”