McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says the team’s target for 2018 has to be to beat fellow Renault-powered teams Red Bull and Renault.
Abu Dhabi was the final race for the McLaren-Honda partnership after three years of struggle as the only team using the Japanese manufacturer’s power unit. Despite having no benchmark during that time, Boullier is confident McLaren has maintained a high level of chassis development that means it cannot aim to be anything other than the leading Renault team next year.
“We can’t deny it’s been three difficult years,” Boullier told RACER. “On track, it has been very difficult. Off track, there have been some positives, and actually much more than you think. I think the strength of McLaren is to keep our heads down, and I’m quite impressed and proud to see these guys during the last three years being very disappointed by the on-track result but still pushing so hard to improve McLaren as a racing organization to be better, to deliver better, to adapt and to catch up with the best teams.
“They’ve been pushing to adapt to the new regulations and to make sure this new car concept which we introduced three years reached a decent level of performance. This has been achieved, which is a lot of reward due to the McLaren side.
“Now it’s going to be a different engine partner, so there is obviously a lot of expectation. We have a good chassis and I think it’s going to be important to see where we are now. We have competitors next year that are going to be Red Bull and Renault, we have the same power unit so we have to make sure we beat them. That’s the target.”
Asked if he has any fear that McLaren could be found to be lacking after such a fallow period, Boullier insists it is motivating to have a direct comparison in 2018.
“We didn’t have any benchmark for the past three years, but not much for the years before as well except 2014,” he said. “But definitely it’s not a big pressure. It’s why we are racing – to win. If you win, then you beat everybody.”