LE CASTELLET, France -- Eric Boullier was forced to defend his position as McLaren's racing director on Friday after a report emerged in the Daily Mail that some factory-based employees had lost faith in the team's management structure.
An anonymous source told the Daily Mail that team members had been rewarded with Freddo chocolate bars -- worth 25p -- for delivering car updates on time, describing the atmosphere at the team as "toxic". The report was accompanied by a picture of senior members of staff, including chief engineering officer Matt Morris, holding the chocolate bars while posing for a photo.
The story follows a difficult start to the season for McLaren as the switch from Honda to Renault engines over the winter failed to deliver the performance senior members of the team had hoped for. But Boullier laughed off suggestions that staff members had taken the Freddo bars as an insult, saying he had received a number of supportive emails from the factory since the story broke.
"I think there have been a couple of stories about some 'chocolate-gate' in the media today which were a bit funny to read," he said. "It was actually good because we had tons of emails from people saying this is a joke.
"It's maybe a couple of grumpy people, which in any organisation, you have some people who agree or disagree when there have been miscommunications. I don't know what the problems are of these people. I think we have invited them to come and see us to understand the problems.
"We need to discuss, we need to see internally what is going on, why these individuals are unhappy. We have obviously 800 people. We have a lot of support from the work force and the engineering. I think it was just a matter of a couple of people were grumpy. In some ways it's maybe good for us, because we have a lot of feedback and good feedback."
Asked directly if he would resign due to McLaren's on-track failings, Bouller added: "Obviously we are all responsible for the car performance. No, I will not resign, to answer your question. I know some of you have written some articles but I'm at my 20th year now in racing. I've won races and/or championships with every team I've managed before, including Formula One. This is a record you cannot take away from me.
"So I think we are on a journey. We are not where we want to be. We are not happy with where we are. It's a journey with a new Renault engine partner. We have a good team of people. We just need to make sure we are finding the issues with the car and then correct them. We know where the issues with the car are, and make sure that when you build a car and when you believe in a concept, you have to develop the concept and make sure you correct it for next year's one."
When Boullier was asked if McLaren had invested in more Freddos for staff member, he added: "No, it's not true. We are not working with some 'Freddos'. It's not good energy anyway, so we're not considering this."