Eric Boullier says that McLaren is in no hurry to confirm its future line-up because the team is planning for the long term, and thus clearly wants to get it right.
Despite Jenson Button’s close relationship with Honda neither of the current drivers is guaranteed a race seat for next year, and the Japanese manufacturer wants the strongest line-up it can get – and is willing to pay to have a superstar in the car.
While Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel all have ongoing contracts in 2015, their names continue to be linked with McLaren, although clearly they would need to be convinced that the Honda package is potentially stronger than what their current teams could provide after winter power unit updates. Any sensible team boss will also be looking closely at the likes of Valterri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo.
In the past McLaren has of course signed and announced drivers a year in advance, as with Juan Pablo Montoya and Alonso himself, so it would not be unprecedented for a star name to be confirmed for 2016 while staying put for next season. Meanwhile Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen have to wait.
“It’s true that we are working on the strategy for the driver line-up for the next years,” said Boullier. “For me it’s important to say years because we’re looking at three years and maybe five years, and it’s true that with Ron being back since January and me new into the team we have obviously asked for a little bit more time than necessary, but we can afford this time, even if it’s uncomfortable for the drivers, which I understand. But we have to put our priorities.”
Regarding the form of Button and Magnussen this year he said: “To be honest they have performed better than we could have expected. First of all we didn’t give them a good enough car, and obviously as you know the worse a car is, the more difficult it is to drive it. I think we’re trying now to bring some performance as fast as we can.
“In terms of driving both drivers did a very good job. Kevin had a podium in the first race, obviously he went through a few experiences, which is part of the learning process. In the case of Jenson he’s obviously a professional and he delivered everything he could out of the car.”
Meanwhile third drivers and GP2 star Stoffel Vandoorne, who says that he is ready for F1, is also waiting in the wings.
“I think it’s a little bit too early to take a decision,” said Boullier when asked about the Belgian’s future. “If you have to go to F1, first he needs to feel ready, and I’m happy he thinks he’s ready. Second we need to have the opportunity to step into F1, and not at any condition I guess. We are now accessing all the scenarios. I think GP2 is one of them, because he obviously he still has to learn more in GP2 and get more wins and fight for the championship.
“He’s doing a good job for the first year, and you can see a very clear progress since a few races. He’s very, very dedicated and I’m happy to see that he’s getting there. But it’s too early to have any plans. So far all plans are open.”