Zak Brown is doing wonders for the McLaren global brand though the F1 team is struggling after a difficult start to the season. Across the pond this weekend, the “greatest spectacle in racing” will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and McLaren have dominated so far with four cars starting in the first four rows.
Each car is running a historic McLaren livery to celebrate 60 years of the British racing marques history and the team have recruited the ‘unofficial mayor of Indy’ in Tony Kanan as their single entry driver in his last race at the brickyard.
Brown talking up McLaren prospects
Meanwhile the McLaren Formula One team is languishing with the ‘also rans’ in the constructors championship with just 14 points from five race weekends.
Yet CEO Zak Brown is still talking up the team’s future, promising “significant developments” for the car and major new appointments to be announced in the near future.
The Woking based team parted company with their technical director early this season having admittedly failed to hit development targets for the year. After race five in 2022 McLaren had scored just shy of 40 points but this year are battling with Alpine to stay ahead of F1’s also ran occasional points scorers.
The team managed to poach a leading light from Ferrari in David Sanchez who will join the team after lengthy garden leave next January, but Zak Brown says more big announcements are on the way.
“Two great drivers”
He told the F1 Nation podcast: “We’re in good shape from a driver standpoint.
“So if I look at the things that we need to get back to the front, you need two great drivers – I think we have those.
“You need your technology, infrastructure being state of the art and on par with the competition – we’ll have that done by the end of the year. We’ve talked a lot about the wind tunnel, simulator and manufacturing unit. These things are all very close to being done. Some of them are done.
“So we’ll have the technology, then it’s people and we have some exciting announcements coming up soon. We have a great team, but we need some additional thinking and some fresh ideas.
USA driving F1 away from Europe
Title contenders for next big rule change
Brown has set targets for the team to be winning races by next year and title contenders following the next big rule change coming in 2026. Yet the current car design and performance makes this ambitions appear lofty and with little basis in reality at the present time.
New thinking will surely need to include the philosophy McLaren have adopted for the new aerodynamics era which began in 2022.
The MCL60 looks a handful for both drivers and repeatedly on the limit in terms of adhesion and this is not the fix of a tweak here and there.
Brown continues, “Some of those announcements we’ve made – more to come – [and] those people will all be joining us over the next nine months, so by the end of the year we’ll have our team in place, we’ll have our infrastructure in place, we’ll have our drivers in place.
2024 car in design now
“But we’re already working on the ’24 car now so we won’t be at our full fighting capacity for the start of the ’24 development because that’s happening now.
“So I think our goal next year is to get back to a 2021-type season – a handful of podiums, a pole, a win, mixing it up – and then [in] ’25 we will have had everything that we need, and for the sufficient time, so I’d like to think we’re going to be winning races in ’25.
“And then once you’re winning races, we’ve got the new era starting in ’26. On paper, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be fighting for the Championship.”
Zak Brown has to talk up the future potential given he has locked down one of the most talented young drivers on the F1 grid at present. Lando Norris contract is set to run until 2025 though as McLaren’s CEO proved last year a contract is only as good as the willingness to see it through.
Alonso/Verstappen Le Mans combo
McLaren introduced a new floor at the Azerbaijan GP though followed a fairly successful weekend in Baku with disaster in Miami as both drivers failed to make it out of qualifying session 1.
“Miami sucked. Clearly disappointing,” said Brown.
“We’re getting to know more about our car and we understand where we needed to be in Miami. So the first step, if you have an issue, is understanding it versus scratching your head, being confused.
“I think we’ll go alright in in Monaco.
Monaco should be strong
The McLaren car has historically been strong in Monaco and last year Lando Norris qualified in P5 with only the Ferrari and Red Bull cars ahead of him.
Mercedes quick thinking in the rain affected race got George Russell ahead off Norris during the pit stops and Lando finished the race in sixth place.
Brown accepts there MCL60 that will appear in Monaco this weekend has no developments worth mentioning from the one last seen in Miami.
“For Monaco not a lot of development, so I think it’s going to be more second half of the year, but we run well at at Monaco and we think it’s a track that suits our car more than Miami, so I think we should be OK.
Monaco weather will help
“But it’s it’s very tight, the field, so you only need to be off by a tenth or two to be right towards the front or right towards the back.
“I think race cars can be temperamental in their characteristics. Obviously, the great race cars are good in all conditions.
The weather for Monaco this weekend is forecast to be mixed with showers and a possible thunderstorm or two. Ambient air temperature will be a relatively cool 22 degrees celsius and Pirelli are set to introduce their new wet weather tyre which requires no pre-heating.
“We have a car that doesn’t like a lot of heat,” reveals Brown.
Upgrades for British GP
“It’s rear-limited. Miami was hot, it was a new circuit and lacked some grip as a new circuit would, so Miami was a circuit like Bahrain that just doesn’t suit our car.
“Obviously, when we get a better car, you want to smooth out where your highs and lows are and have a better average.
“I think Monaco will will be better. We feel good about Montreal, we’ll start having some more significant developments coming around Austria and the British grands prix and hopefully are on track for a strong second half of the year.”
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Ayrton Senna at full throttle around Monaco 🍿
The man was a genius #MonacoGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/11OqtbZN1Y
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 23, 2023