Zak Brown creates tension in McLaren hierarchy

Formula One was set for a fairly dull driver/team change season in 2022 until Sebastian Vettel decided to retire from the sport. This triggered a move from Alonso to replace the German champion at Aston Martin and a subsequent scramble from Alpine to fill the seat vacated by Fernando.

Gasly then saw his opportunity to join a front line team following years of driving for Red Bull’s number two outfit. Nico Hulkneberg replaces the disappointing Mick Schumacher at Haas F1 and F1 sees rookie entrants Nyck de Vries join Alpha Tauri, Logan Sargeant make the move to Grove based Williams Racing and Oscar Piastri replace the loveable Aussie Daniel Ricciardo.



Team bosses join the “silly season”

Yet it wasn’t just the F1 driver market that saw meteoric change as the team principals decided to join the party. Williams have parted company with Jos Capito though have yet to name his replacement. 

Mattia Binotto had a woeful season as Ferrari developed a car capable of winning one or both F1 championships only to implode due to internal chaos and a lack of organisation.

The Maranello outfit decided to replace Mattia with Sauber’s Fred Vasseur who probably has the biggest pressure on his shoulders of all the team principal’s in the 2023 F1 paddock. Yet his appointment was hardly surprising as the real shock emerged as McLaren’s Andreas Seidl resigned to replace Fred at Sauber.



Seidl departure known

Seidl had indicated to McLaren’s CEO Zak Brown he would not be remaining at the Woking based team when his contract expired at the end of 2025. Andreas was always set to return to the VAG fold when Audi join F1 in 2026 having previously run their WEC programme at Porsche from 2013-2019. Audi are believed to have acquired the Sauber team as the platform for their impending F1 entry.

“[Andreas] informed me during the season that he was going to go elsewhere, when his contract was up at the end of 2025,” Brown revealed earlier this week.

“[It was] probably pretty clear where that destination would be, which was quite understandable, given his background.

“At that time, we intended to continue for the foreseeable future, because the relationship is very, very healthy. And his work discipline is very strong.



McLaren role over letting Seidl leave

McLaren have been aggressive in their hunt for drivers both for their F1 and IndyCar team this season resulting in litigious actions on both sides of the Atlantic. Though when their team principal requested to breach his contract, the British based team appeared to follow a different path.

Zak Brown reveals, “when it became clear that Fred was going to go to Ferrari, [Sauber owner] Finn Rausing, who is someone that I’ve known for a decade, and get along with very well, gave me a call to see if there was a discussion to be had to potentially release Andreas early.

“My reaction was, if Andrea would be happy to join as team principal, then I’d be very happy to make that change now, which I think puts everyone in their permanent homes for the foreseeable future.”



Stella promotion a “no brainer”

McLaren moved swiftly to promote Andrea Stella to step up and replace Seidl for the 2023 season. Stella worked with Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso as an engineer at Ferrari and has served under the likes of ex-Ferrari bosses Jean Todt and Stefano Domenicali.

Stella moved to McLaren in 2015 and has served as head of race operations, performance director and most recently racing director.

Zak Brown revealed after releasing Seidl the promotion of Stella was a no brainer.

“After some good conversations, Andrea kindly accepted the role, which then put us in a very comfortable position to move forward,” he said.

“Because Andrea was always our number one choice to lead the team moving forward, that all came together quite rapidly.”



Stella: His own man

On his appointment Stella revealed, “I think my style will be a hands-on type of Team Principal. I think the opportunity that we have is that I’ve have been dealing with and exposed to the engineering and racing elements of Formula 1 throughout my career.”

Yet today Zak Brown suggests he will take a more operational role than during the Seidl era.

“I will certainly lean in more where Andrea would like my support,” said Brown. However, Brown should ensure he leaves the technical side of managing the team to Stella and not meddle given the Italian’s experience.



Brown sounds defensive

Brown appears to feel the need to explain the leadership team has not been weakened with the departure of Seidl.

“I think we will find good ways of working and I would say we have not gone from three people to two people, we have gone from 850 people to 849 people.

“Therefore, it is quite a large organisation where I think there is a tremendous amount of talent in the team and these are opportunities for everybody to step up.

Whether Brown’s additional involvement in operational matters will stifle Stella’s vision of the future is yet to be seen. The reality is Brown is a big personality and to ensure tensions do not develop he needs ton allow Stella to be his own man.

READ MORE: Alonso reveals future plans

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