Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button claimed second and third respectively in Australia to give the Woking-based squad an eight point advantage over Mercedes at the top of the constructors’ standings. But with McLaren qualifying over a second behind the Silver Arrows in Melbourne, Boullier says that the team must now focus on improving their outright pace.
“It’s true that Mercedes and Williams have some pace (advantage), maybe between half and three quarters of a second quicker than the rest of the field,” he said in a McLaren-Mercedes teleconference on Wednesday.
“But as for McLaren, we focused a lot of our winter on building a solid and reliable car, because we believed - and Australia confirmed our strategy - that reliability was key to taking big points at the beginning of the season.
“It is true now that we are pushing very aggressively on performance development - we need to clearly catch up the gap to Mercedes and also some others.
“Some other teams have not performed well so far, but clearly once they are delivering full power they will be very fast. Our target is to catch up by Barcelona, and build up over the first few races in Europe.”
McLaren’s points haul in Melbourne was aided by the exclusion of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo from the race results, a decision which promoted 21-year-old debutant Magnussen from third to second. But despite his star turn at Albert Park, Boullier insists that the team’s expectations of the Danish rookie have not been raised.
“You cannot base all of your expectations on one race,” he explained. “This past weekend Kevin did a brilliant job. He was mature enough to build up through the weekend and obviously he had strong drives in qualifying and the race.
"But for sure there is no expectation (on him) other than building him up and trying to develop him as a potential race winner, if we have the car to do it.”