Eric Boullier expects Jenson Button to stay with McLaren for the 2015 season
But Frenchman rules out taking any short-cuts out of slump and says "we need to use 2014 and maybe 2015 to cure our problems"
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 08/06/14 2:25pm
Button's current contract with the team expires at the end of the current campaign and both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne have been mooted as potential replacements for the 34-year-old. But Button has impressed in adversity this season, out-performing highly-rated rookie Kevin Magnussen in the uncompetitive MP4-29 and has made plain his determination to prolong his F1 career beyond November.
Although the 2009 World Champion has yet to open talks with McLaren, who will join forces with Honda next term, it now seems likely he will be retained for a sixth season with the team.
"Since I have joined McLaren I have found out what a great competitor he is and what a good asset he is for the team," Boullier told Sky Sports News ahead of Sunday's Canadian GP. "I more and more appreciate what he can do. I'm very pleased and when the time comes to sit down then I would love to carry on with him.
"I expect him [to stay], but we haven't sat down properly yet."
For Boullier, who replaced the ousted Martin Whitmarsh as McLaren team boss in February, finalising the team's driver line-up for 2015 may be the easy bit over the coming months. The Frenchman, who quit Lotus to join McLaren, has been charged with conducting a root and branch review of the team's operations by chief executive Ron Dennis in the wake of a miserable eighteen months that has seen McLaren's status as a F1 superpower fall into disrepute - and dispute. Tough times are calling for tough decisions.
"People are frustrated because after the trauma of last year we were expecting a better season," conceded Boullier. "But when you are in a spiral you have to stop it and steer the company differently. We have to take some tough decisions. We have a very tough sport and our competitors are doing a better job than us. One of the easiest ways to get up to speed is to get people involved from other teams - this is what the other teams do and this is what I am trying to. We have to look at ourselves to make sure we are heading in the right direction."
With Honda poised to replace Mercedes as McLaren's engine suppliers next year, it's been suggested that the team may abandon the current campaign by devoting the full arsenal of their development programme to the looming challenge of incorporating Honda's power unit into what will be an entirely new car. However, Boullier is adamant the team will not take any short-cuts to climb out of their current slump - and has admitted the road back to competitiveness will be a long and painful journey which may not be competed for at least another two years.
"We cannot have that type of thinking," insisted the former Lotus chief when asked if McLaren were preparing to switch focus to 2015 already. "We first need to understand why a team like McLaren, which has been successful for so long, is now struggling. We need to use 2014 and maybe 2015 to cure our problems. We have everything - the talent, the people, the resources, the name, the brand - and we will be back, I know this. But we need to do it properly."
And in another bold statement of intent, Boullier insists that he is not prepared to instigate quick fixes for short-term gains next year.
"I don't want to do it next year if it is just for one year and then we fall into a spiral again. Red Bull, if you remember, took four years after they took over Jaguar. It's a tough process and we need to do it properly."
Watch the Canadian GP live on Sky Sports F1, with coverage starting on Sunday at 6pm