McLaren found more performance in developing its chassis in 2017 than Honda made with its power unit, according to Zak Brown.
Last season marked the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations that resulted in lap times being up to five seconds per lap faster compared to when the new rules were designed in 2015. Honda again struggled with a new power unit concept but made big gains throughout the year, and McLaren became a regular point-scorer towards the end of the season. But executive director Brown says the biggest improvements were made with the chassis itself despite the frustrating campaign.
“Morale never got low,” Brown told RACER. “The unbelievable thing about this place is, when you walk the halls, this is a team that has won 20 world championships and everyone is very proud. I’ve never been to a place where for so many people their life is McLaren or they wanted to work at McLaren their whole life.
“I’m not sure many companies have that level of enthusiasm from their employees. Take Fortune 500 Company X, you probably don’t walk into Coca-Cola and someone says, ‘I’ve wanted to work for Coca-Cola my whole life.’ No disrespect to Coca-Cola, but McLaren is like that, Ferrari would be like that – big passion.
“So they were more frustrated [than demoralized]. They never gave up. The amount of development… The car got quicker over the year, and that was more car than anything. The engine got better too but we raced like we were racing for a world championship. That was the mindset and we never gave up.
“So morale was always good, but there wasn’t much excitement because there was nothing to get excited about. So excitement levels were low because it was we’ve got to go and race again next year next weekend and we know what the result’s going to be. It’s going to be a degree of: ‘How bad is the weekend going to be? How many penalties are we going to get?’
“So morale was up, desire to get back to our winning ways is off the chart. It’s really made everyone more hungry and I think that’s a good place for the organization to be. A really hungry McLaren, that’s a good thing.”
Asked if there is a fresh excitement within McLaren ahead of its switch to Renault power units in this coming season, Brown replied: “Definitely.
“Energy, enthusiasm, excitement are kind of at an all-time high, certainly within the last five years. Morale’s great, people are working hard, we’re excited. We’ve got a new livery coming, we’ve got a new garage coming, we’ve got a new engine coming, we’ve got the two drivers we wanted… Everyone’s working well together.
“Eric [Boullier] is happy with everything that he has. I asked him the other day ‘Anything else you need?’ ‘Nope, I got what I need.’ So everyone is excited and the anticipation is building. I wish Australia was tomorrow.”