McLaren boss Eric Boullier admits that the team must be competitive this season to make a deal with Fernando Alonso for the 2018 Formula One season. During the pre-season test, the team had reliability and other engine issues.
After two difficult seasons with McLaren, Alonso could walk away if his frustration gets too much. The engine for the McLaren F1 car is provided by Honda, which is down on power and is offering 30 km/h less top speed on the straights than competitors.
Alonso already said that he wouldn't retire at the end of this season. In an interview with Spanish newspaper AS, Boullier said, "There are always a lot of stories about this."
He added, "I think Fernando is honest with us, just as we're honest with him. He first wanted to see how the new car was. And how the new regulations are. And I think he likes the new F1. He wants to be competitive because he has the talent to show the world and to himself.
"And we need to be competitive to keep him happy. If we're competitive, he'll be happy and if not he'll take his decisions..."
Boullier also said that Alonso is still the undisputed best driver on the grid. He said, "I don't want to give you too much information because I know a lot of teams want that information, but he's the best. Without a doubt. He's the best because he is, clearly, but over and above that, it can be shown."
When asked if Alonso made a mistake leaving Ferrari for McLaren-Honda project, Boullier replied, "No. He was happy there. He was competitive and did what he had to do. But he wanted new challenges because Fernando is a competitive person, a born competitor.
"He was there, and he gave them everything, maybe his best drive was at Ferrari, but maybe he wanted something more. He needed new challenges. He's the best driver, and he needs to win, he thought he would be able to here, and that has to be our job, to do that."