McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admits his team did not set ambitious enough targets with its 2018 car after starting the season off the pace of the top three.
Supplied with a Renault power unit this season, McLaren set itself the target of challenging for podiums and getting close to Red Bull as it shares the same engine, but so far has been up to a second per lap slower in qualifying trim. Race pace has been stronger but still lacking compared to the front-runners, with Daniel Ricciardo winning for Red Bull in China while Fernando Alonso ended up over half a minute behind the Australian despite the pack being bunched by a Safety Car with 21 laps remaining.
Asked if the change in power unit had unmasked some previously unknown chassis weaknesses, Boullier replied: “No, I don’t think so.
“The car is still very balanced. If you listen to the drivers they are happy with the balance of the car. Whatever you try and set up, the car reacts accordingly so a bit more understeer, less understeer, more oversteer, one tenth better here, one tenth slower here. So I think we have a good understanding of the car.
“I think the car has no nastiness, if you want, in terms of the design. We just need to make the car faster around the corner and in the straight line.
“The car has matched all the targets so maybe that means the targets were not the right ones so we need to revise in terms of ambitions what we need to achieve.”
Boullier says a true reflection of McLaren’s 2018 car will not be seen until the start of the European season, with the team having been unable to introduce certain upgrades earlier in the year due to reliability issues faced during pre-season testing.
“We didn’t turn up in Australia with the car we wanted because we were delayed for several reasons. A lot of parts, upgrades, are on the way to hit the track. For logistical reasons it’s very likely it’s going to be Barcelona and from that point we will see, performance-wise, where we are.”