MCLAREN: WE CAN FIGHT FERRARI
British squad targets toppling the Italians on the streets of Monte Carlo
Bosses of Mclaren-honda are confident the team can rival Ferrari during this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix as the team goes in search of its best result of the campaign so far.
Mclaren’s Jenson Button has scored in the last two races and team-mate Fernando Alonso was sixth in the Russian Grand Prix.
The Mclaren drivers will relish Monaco thanks to the track’s low-speed nature playing to the strengths of the MP4-31.
The tight circuit favours teams with strong basic chassis, rather than outright power, and the track has proved a safe haven for Mclaren since its troubled reunion with Honda. Button narrowly missed making the final stage of qualifying at Monte Carlo last term and scored Mclaren-honda’s first points of the year with eighth place.
Mclaren is adamant that its chassis remains one of the best on the grid, with team head Eric Boullier insisting Button and Fernando Alonso are capable of challenging the top six.
When asked where he thought the cars could be in Monaco, Boullier said: “On paper we could be between six and eight.”
Then when quizzed on which cars he expected to be ahead of Mclaren, Boullier suggested he expected his team to at least match Ferrari. “Red Bull, definitely, Toro Rosso, who have quite a good car, and Mercedes, but Ferrari, not so sure. Not sure Ferrari is a threat,” said Boullier.
“Last year we were third [best chassis], but close with Williams and Ferrari. Now it is Mercedes, Red Bull, ourselves, then Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Williams.”
Button heads into the race looking for his first hat-trick of points-scoring finishes since 2014. He said: “I love Monaco, and the last couple of years I’ve been on it. Q3 has to be the aim this year. Last year it was frustrating with a yellow flag at turn one as I had to lift and lost the place.
“The way I drive and build up – instead of overshooting and then coming back – I think works for me.”
Alonso added: “We are getting better and better, no doubt we are making steps with the package. We are still missing a bit of power from the power unit, but that’s not so important at Monaco so we have the chance to deliver.”
Honda has been working to bridge the gap in power to Mercedes behind the scenes, with a B-spec engine planned for introduction as early as this weekend or the following round in Canada (June 10-12). Both drivers have completed three or more races on their current power units, and Honda will introduce upgrades around the move to their next allocated ones.
Honda motorsport head Yusuke Hasegawa said: “It’s possible to introduce updates next week. I don’t want to waste [development] tokens for a small upgrade so we need to decide when. In Monaco or Canada we will introduce a new engine.”