McLaren testing woe returns with three MCL33 breakdowns
Three stoppages as second test begins leaves team playing catch-up again; But former partners Honda run reliably with Toro Rosso
By James Galloway and Pete Gill at Barcelona
Last Updated: 07/03/18 7:31am
McLaren have endured a nightmare start to F1 2018's second and final test after their car broke down three times at Barcelona.
The team were already towards the bottom of the mileage charts after Test One before three separate interruptions hindered their running as the second test began on Tuesday.
Electrical problems relating to the battery twice stopped their MCL33 car in the morning's opening 70 minutes, once in the pit lane and once on the pit straight, and cost Stoffel Vandoorne nearly three hours of running.
The Belgian returned just before lunch and had clocked up 38 laps by mid-afternoon before a fresh technical problem, this time with the hydraulics, then stopped the car at Turn Three. The MCL33 did not return to track thereafter.
However, the team described them as "niggling issues" and Eric Boullier played down the impact the delays were having on their testing programme.
"There is absolutely no drama," the McLaren racing director told Sky Sports News.
"This is just testing. We push the car to the limits and we try some various conditions and set-ups and things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
"The cars are complicated and when you have to change something in the heart of the car it takes longer than in the old days when it was much simpler."
Boullier added: "There are important parts [to test] and less important parts and we'll do our best to cover the most miles we can in the last three days."
McLaren playing catch-up...again...as Honda shine
McLaren's first five days of running with their new Renault-powered car have been compromised by unreliability.
On the opening day of Test One, Fernando Alonso was pitched into the gravel at the final corner after a loose wheelnut worked its way loose. Vandoorne then lost hours of track time on Day Two due to a broken exhaust clip.
McLaren's management had hoped for sustained trouble-free running this winter after ending their lucrative but failed Honda partnership in a bid to revive their fortunes.
But while Renault have been pleased with their engine's reliability so far in testing, McLaren shouldered responsibility for the problems at the first test.
Asked if there were any problems with the Renault integration, Boullier insist: "Not at all. To be fair, the last bit today was parts we've had on the car since the beginning of testing and fatigue broke the parts, nothing else
"We have to go back to this and make sure we have a better integration and design, but it's just business as usual."
By contrast, Honda have enjoyed their most reliable pre-season since returning to F1 in 2015.
New partners Toro Rosso completed the most laps of any team at Test One and the STR13 was running in the top four on the timesheet when McLaren racked up their unwanted hat-trick of problems.
Toro Rosso are still expected to start the season in the lower half of the midfield but Franz Tost has stoked what may be viewed as a brewing rivalry by suggesting his team can end the year ahead of McLaren.
"We are happy with the Honda engine which is doing a fantastic job," the Toro Rosso team boss told Sky Sports.
"I am convinced they will supply us with a very competitive package. I am sure that during the season we will catch up and by the end of the season we will have a very competitive car. Our target is to be in the front part of the midfield.
"I don't care about McLaren. I am convinced that by the end we will have a more competitive package than them."
Inadvertently or not, Toro Rosso's Twitter feed appeared to send a cheeky message to the Woking-based McLaren team amid the STR13's impressive run of reliability.
Ted Kravitz's analysis
"It's almost as if we are seeing a cleaning up of Honda's reputation in F1, facilitated by a warm working relationship with Toro Rosso which then directly shines a light on 'how did it go so badly with McLaren?'
"And every problem for McLaren at this test then shines the suggestion that McLaren need to take their fair share of responsibility for what happened with Honda.
"There is no doubt that Honda's repeated failure to meet their targets and woeful unreliability was the main factor in costing the team in the Constructors' Championship when they finished ninth in 2017.
"But if McLaren are to truly challenge for race wins and titles again, they have to be operationally perfect. And we haven't seen that so far in this test - from a wheelnut to a hydraulics failure to a more serious issue with the overheating bodywork because it was too close to the exhaust.
"These are things that can be fixed for Melbourne but it leaves them a long way short of their 100-laps-a-day target."
Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.