After Shanghai letdown, McLaren’s Boullier tells team ‘don’t panic’

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After a double-podium result in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, McLaren’s form has dramatically fallen. And in last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, the descent continued.

Former World Champion Jenson Button and rookie Kevin Magnussen were each unable to muster much of a fight, finishing 11th and 13th respectively in a rough afternoon at Shanghai.

Perhaps it gave McLaren diehards a flashback to the team’s awful season last year, in which it failed to register a podium finish for the first time in over three decades.

With that in mind, racing director Eric Boullier is doing all he can to keep the troops from Woking from falling into a state of alarm.

“One of the dangers is after last year is to go into panic mode, which would make things even worse,” he said according to Britain’s Press Association. “It is why we have to go back a little and say, ‘Don’t panic’.

“McLaren has won as many races as Ferrari. Two years ago, they were winning races, so there is no reason to panic. It is not because you lose one guy, two guys, six guys or 10 that the car does not work any more. It is more the panic mode.

“Sometimes you have to look at yourself and think, ‘Well, what the others are doing is maybe more clever’. Like any business, you have to watch your competitors and try and catch up with them.”

In the meantime, Boullier insists the team has managed to find “a lot of performance” in the wind tunnel, which it plans to show as the F1 calendar moves deeper into its European portion.

“Some of it will be in Barcelona, whilst other things will take a bit longer than this,” he said. “But we’re definitely in the mix – 100 per cent sure. On the track is one thing, but we know in the factory what is going to happen in the next three or four races.

“I know what is going on, so I know we are on a very good development rate.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III