McLaren’s suggestion it could outpace the likes of Ferrari in the Monaco Grand Prix is too optimistic, reckons Williams Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa.
Monaco has been tipped as one of McLaren’s best chances to shine in the 2016 season as the power deficit from its Honda engine will be less significant, and its racing director Eric Boullier cited title-chasing Ferrari as one of the teams it could upstage. But Massa thinks McLaren is being over-optimistic.
“Maybe they can be better here, but they are not able to beat these big teams at the moment,” he said. “It’s not just related to the engine, it’s related to the car. I don’t think they have a car that is similar to Mercedes, or similar to Red Bull or similar to Ferrari at the moment. Maybe they have a car which can work better on this track, but not on the level to beat these top teams.”
Boullier suggested McLaren has the third-best chassis in F1 at present after Mercedes and Red Bull. Toro Rosso was also praised by Boullier, but STR driver Carlos Sainz Jr. reckons McLaren needs to prove itself in Monaco.
“Many people are talking of how strong McLaren is going to be,” he acknowledged. “McLaren are always evolving and here, really low-speed stuff could be really good for them.
“It’s going to be one of the tightest midfields of the year here in Monaco, with Force India always showing really good mechanical grip, us having a lot of downforce, which should help around here, and McLaren being really good in second-gear corners.
“Williams has less of a disadvantage this year as the step in ultra-soft should help them to cure the problems they had last year. The best chassis are still Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren is to be confirmed. If they are very strong here then they have a stronger chassis than us. It’s ‘TBC’ because we don’t know yet.”
LOW-KEY START FOR McLAREN
McLaren was disappointed with its Thursday practice performance, when Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were only 10th and 12th.
“Front end was the big issue, for both of us,” said Button. “The afternoon was much better, getting there.”
Alonso remained optimistic things would be better by qualifying.
“We know this is a good opportunity for us in terms of the circuit layout,” he said. “Maybe we expected to be a little bit more competitive in the free practice. But we need to stay calm, it’s only Thursday and there is a lot of potential in the car that we need to find for Saturday.
“The balance was not right [in practice], with a lot of understeer, so there is a lot of laptime to come from us. The time of truth will be Saturday and we will deliver.”