McLaren to start 2016 Formula 1 season with ‘unknowns’

Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso completed a combined 780 laps over two weeks in Barcelona but the Honda-powered team failed to complete their full pre-season testing programme.

McLaren are set to trial their 2016 package in Friday’s practice at the Australian GP, and Boullier said: “It’s been a very long winter, and I know that I can speak on behalf of the whole McLaren-Honda team when I say that we can’t wait to go racing again!

“We are certainly a step ahead of where we were this time last year in terms of preparation. That said, we didn’t manage to complete our final configuration and set-up work for the first race, so we go to Melbourne with a number of unknowns.

“It won’t be an easy start to the weekend in that sense, since we’ll need to concentrate on setting the car up for each session and readying the final specification of our package as soon as we get to Albert Park.”

The results of the MP4-31 from testing seem to point at improved reliability, but it still remains to be seen where McLaren will find themselves in the pecking order.

The team endured their worst season in 30 years in 2015 and finished the second pre-season test with a time which was two seconds adrift of Ferrari’s leading pace.

Alonso has vowed not to make any predictions for the first race at Albert Park while Button is hoping to see the new rules for the 2016 season help produce more unpredictable results.

“This is the first chance for us to compare ourselves on similar set-ups,” Button said. “We’ve been concentrating heavily on our own development and processes, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we are on a level playing field.

“Melbourne will certainly be a challenge, but our package definitely feels like a step forward from last year. There are so many more variables this year – new qualifying format, new tyre regulations, and Australia usually produces unpredictable races, so anything could happen!”