Formula 1
Formula 1
28 Mar
FP1 in
27 days
R
Emilia Romagna GP
18 Apr
Race in
50 days
09 May
Next event in
68 days
23 May
Race in
85 days
R
Azerbaijan GP
06 Jun
Race in
99 days
13 Jun
Race in
106 days
27 Jun
Race in
120 days
04 Jul
Next event in
124 days
18 Jul
Race in
141 days
R
Hungarian GP
01 Aug
Race in
155 days
29 Aug
Race in
183 days
05 Sep
Race in
190 days
12 Sep
Race in
197 days
26 Sep
Race in
211 days
R
Singapore GP
03 Oct
Next event in
215 days
10 Oct
Race in
225 days
R
United States GP
24 Oct
Race in
239 days
31 Oct
Race in
246 days
R
Australian GP
21 Nov
Race in
267 days
R
Saudi Arabia GP
05 Dec
Race in
281 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
12 Dec
Race in
288 days

Brown: McLaren "became a bit Darth Vader" in decline years

McLaren became “a bit Darth Vader” in its declining years and needed to become warmer as a Formula 1 organisation, believes CEO Zak Brown.

shares
comments
Brown: McLaren "became a bit Darth Vader" in decline years

McLaren enjoyed its best F1 season since 2012 last year as it finished third in the constructors’ championship and scored two podium finishes with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.

The team has switched to Mercedes power units for the 2021 season, and has been boosted by fresh investment over the winter from American group MSP Sports Capital.

McLaren’s upward trajectory starkly contrasts the struggles it faced through much of the 2010s as it battled with its loss of Mercedes works status and an ill-fated switch to Honda power units in 2015.

A slump to ninth place in the constructors’ championship in 2015 was set against the backdrop of a boardroom struggle that culminated in long-serving CEO Ron Dennis leaving at the end of 2016.

Brown took over the running of McLaren’s motorsport activities, initially as executive director before becoming CEO of McLaren Racing, and has helped rejuvenate the team’s fortunes.

“What I walked into was a team very much on the decline in almost every aspect,” Brown told Motorsport.com.

“Sponsorship from the days of Vodafone, Johnnie Walker, GSK and ExxonMobil was down to almost a blank car. Race results, the facts are the facts: we were ninth in the championship. That then manifested itself into a very unhappy workforce, so when you walked around the shop, heads were down, not up.

"I don’t think it’s any one individual person’s fault, there’s not a blame game here. But you had a revolving door of leadership, starting at the top. You had a well-documented and publicised shareholder battle.

“That just manifested itself into a very unhealthy environment. What I tried to do is get the right people in the right place, simplify the organisation, focus the organisation, and try and be a warmer organisation.”

Read Also:

Brown said that he was a “massive admirer” of Dennis, and that he considered him to be “a friend and clearly a legend in the sport”, but explained how McLaren needed to be more receptive to what others wanted from the team and the brand.

“I’ve always kind of felt like McLaren is Star Wars, but we became a bit Darth Vader, and I think we needed to be a bit more Luke Skywalker,” Brown said.

“So, cool, Star Wars, but we really tried to turn the attention of the team and the brand into what do people want out of McLaren? [Such as] changing the car to papaya, because that’s what the fans want.

“By getting I think the right people in the right place, focusing the organisation, and bringing some energy and change, we’re now starting to see that all working.”

McLaren has been boosted by the arrival of ex-Porsche LMP1 chief Andreas Seidl as team principal and ex-Toro Rosso technical chief James Key, both of whom started their roles in 2019.

The team is also embarking on an upgrade of its facilities at Woking, including the construction of a new wind tunnel, as well as signing seven-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo to partner Norris in 2021.

“We have everything we need now, whether that’s drivers, team principal, technical director, power unit, sponsor partners, investors, the resources, the CapEx [projects], but it’s going to take more time to gel,” Brown said.

“If you look at the two more recent dominations: Mercedes, it took them a little bit of time to build that momentum to get there, then once they got there, they’re hard to knock off the top of the mountain.

“Before that, it was Red Bull. It took them a little bit of time to get there. So this is a momentum business. I think we have good momentum. But we still have a long way to go.”

Related video

Ricciardo's snug McLaren showcases fine art of the F1 seat fit

Previous article

Ricciardo's snug McLaren showcases fine art of the F1 seat fit

Next article

F1 considers 2021 Saturday sprint races, reverse grids ruled out

F1 considers 2021 Saturday sprint races, reverse grids ruled out
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Luke Smith
Why Verstappen isn't interested in the hype game Prime

Why Verstappen isn't interested in the hype game

In a pre-season where Red Bull has been unusually quiet, Max Verstappen has also been guarded about the team's fortunes in 2021. Even after trying the RB16B for the first time at Silverstone, the Dutchman was careful to manage expectations

The pros and cons of F1's 2021 rule changes Prime

The pros and cons of F1's 2021 rule changes

In the strategy for grand prix racing's future, 2021 represents a significant step towards the goal of closer racing and a more level playing field. That's the theory behind the latest raft of changes, but will they have the desired effect?

Formula 1
Feb 24, 2021
What Red Bull is trying to hide with its RB16B launch Prime

What Red Bull is trying to hide with its RB16B launch

Red Bull made no secret of the fact its 2021 F1 car is an evolution of its predecessor, but in keeping the same foundations while hiding some tightly-guarded updates with its RB16B, the team aims to avoid suffering the same pitfalls of previous years

Formula 1
Feb 23, 2021
How Albon plans to fight his way out of Red Bull limbo Prime

How Albon plans to fight his way out of Red Bull limbo

Alex Albon has faced the media for the first time since he lost his Red Bull drive at the end of 2020 and dropped out of a Formula 1 race seat altogether. He has a history of bouncing back from setbacks, so here's what he must do to rise again

Formula 1
Feb 23, 2021
Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates Prime

Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates

Carlin has helped guide enough drivers to Formula 1 to fill out an entire grid, plus a handful of reserves, to create a remarkable alumni list. With Yuki Tsunoda set to join that group, Motorsport.com has ranked its graduates to grace the grand prix scene...

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
Why Alfa's 2021 launch says more about its 2022 plans Prime

Why Alfa's 2021 launch says more about its 2022 plans

Alfa Romeo launched its C41 with a revised front nose, but there's little to suggest it will surge up the leaderboard in 2021. As the team frankly admits, it's putting its eggs in the basket labelled 2022 and hoping to hold the eighth place it earned last year

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
Why Gasly’s AlphaTauri haven is a blessing and a curse Prime

Why Gasly’s AlphaTauri haven is a blessing and a curse

Red Bull opted not to re-sign Pierre Gasly even before it decided to drop Alex Albon and so the Frenchman's Formula 1 journey will continue at AlphaTauri. This has positive and negative connotations for one of last season's star performers.

Formula 1
Feb 20, 2021
Eight things Red Bull must do to beat Mercedes in 2021 Prime

Eight things Red Bull must do to beat Mercedes in 2021

After seven years of defeat at the hands of Mercedes, Red Bull is as hungry as ever to secure a fifth world championship. But there are key challenges it must overcome in 2021 to switch from challenger to conqueror

Formula 1
Feb 19, 2021