“If Alonso spends much more time at home, he’ll go crazy”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier answers questions about the chaotic state at the team

Oriol Puigdemont
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier.D. Gibson (Getty)

Eric Boullier was one of the first to arrive at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne on Sunday. He entered the paddock at 10.05am, after approaching the crowds for photos and autographs, and then sat down with EL PAÍS to discuss the most turbulent start to a season he has ever seen. As racing director for McLaren, the 41-year-old Frenchman is having to provide explanations for the recent accident that saw their driver, Fernando Alonso, have to sit out the first race of the season, as well as the dire performance of their car, which is plagued with problems as a result of its new Honda power unit. In the end, the MP4-30 of Alonso’s stand-in driver, Kevin Magnussen, failed to make it to the grid due to technical faults, while his teammate, Jenson Button, finished in last place, two laps down on race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).

Question. You are one of the reasons that prompted Alonso to return to McLaren. Have you spoken to him in the last few days?

Answer. Every day. To start with he wanted to be here, but after thinking about it more he concluded that it would be better to listen to the advice of the doctors and stay at home, getting some rest. So he asked me for access to our interactive data system and he has been present in every meeting we have had. He only missed one that we did very early on Friday morning.

There are lots of people who tell lies just to gain followers on Twitter or on their blogs”

Q. How is he doing?

A. He’s perfect, in fact we are starting to worry about him because if he spends more days at home, he’s going to go crazy. We have to bring him back now, but it’s out of our hands. There’s protocol and rules to follow, and next week he will have to pass FIA doctors’ tests, and then straight away he’ll have the green light.

Q. Why is McLaren treating him like just another spectator if he is talking about returning for the next race in Malaysia?

A. I don’t agree with that sensation. I would even say to you that perhaps we have been too pro-active, but we haven’t shouted about it. Let’s go back to the accident. I was with him in the hospital every day, talking to the doctors, and we were completely transparent with Fernando’s people. We want the best for him. I personally coordinated the investigation that was put in motion in Woking and everything has been done with complete transparency with the FIA. We have as much interest as them in knowing what happened. We are not hiding behind the FIA. We did what we had to do as a team but we didn’t show that publicly. What has prevailed in our behavior is the sense of responsibility we have for our drivers and for the organization that runs this championship. There are procedures that he needs to follow to be able to race again, those are the rules.

More information
“My name is Fernando. I race karts. I want to be a Formula 1 driver”
Fernando Alonso to miss first Grand Prix of Formula 1 season
Alonso under observation in hospital after mysterious crash during testing
Fernando Alonso discharged from hospital, but will miss rest of testing

Q. Do you, then, understand all the suspicions still surrounding the accident?

A. I understand, but only up to a point. The problem is that the whole issue has been taken to an emotional level. Images of ambulances are very striking. Straight away, all the social networks were filled with messages from people asking how Fernando was. But no one knew. A kind of spectacle and need for information was created. And I understand it, but there have been those who used it incorrectly. You know better than I the role that Alonso plays in Spain, and that saw a situation whereby information was being given out even though it had been made up. Some things are true, others aren’t. There are lots of people who tell lies just to gain followers on Twitter or on their blogs. I’m very happy to see you sat here, but most journalists don’t double check their sources, and they end up speculating.

Q. You were at the hospital the entire time. Can you confirm whether or not Alonso really did lose his memory, as was reported?

A. I don’t want to comment on that.

Q. Are we witnessing the first conflict between Alonso and McLaren, even though the season has barely begun?

A. No, no, and a thousand times no. It was a dramatic incident, and it was very unfortunate, but I can assure you that there is no problem between us.

I know it is difficult to understand, but we still don’t know why he crashed”

Q. When team principal Ron Dennis appeared before the press in Montmeló, you got the sensation that the only thing he was worried about was convincing the world that the car had not had a failure.

A. That may have been the sensation you got, but I do not agree. I am not here to defend Ron, but I have been at the center of misunderstandings caused by bad translations many times. What he said in Montmeló was that after examining the car, we couldn’t find anything strange. But that is not McLaren against Fernando. I know it is difficult to understand, but we still don’t know why he crashed.

Q. And do you think we will know some day what happened?

A. I hope so! I promise you we are not hiding anything. Believe me – I never lie.

Q. Are you afraid that Alonso might end up leaving the team at the end of the year?

A. Absolutely not.

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