McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says his team is in a much better place ahead of this season than it was 12 months ago.
Team principal Andreas Seidl and technical director James Key both joined during the 2019 season, and were not in place when last year’s car was delivered. Even though the team improved markedly to finish in fourth place in the constructors’ championship, Brown says he notices the difference having his senior leadership team in place ahead of the new season.
“It feels a lot better than this time last year,” Brown said. “We knew that James and Andreas would be joining us but they had not done so yet. Now I feel like I’ve got my complete Formula 1 team in place with Andreas leading it — that was who I wanted to run our F1 team and James is who we wanted to be technical director.
“My role is to get the right people in the right place and give them the right resources. I think since we started making changes we’ve accomplished that. We had a pretty good car last year that got stronger over the second part of the year. I put that down to everybody, but a lot of it was the leadership from Andreas and James. As the car got more competitive, it wasn’t a coincidence that it was when they started to get stuck into things.
“Now we’ve got our new race car, which is the first time we’ve had everyone in place. Andreas has brought a lot of clarity into how he wants to see the Formula 1 team run, and that’s been very well received. It’s a nice environment to walk around the factory and at the race track — it’s got a real team feeling. So I’m excited.
“That being said, the gap [between fourth and] third is still very big in Formula 1 terms, so I think we have to be realistic,” Brown added. “The first thing we need to do is not go backwards, and that in itself won’t be easy because we have great competition in the midfield.
“I’m very, very pleased, but we still have a long way to go.”
Key, who joined during the 2019 season, had time to analyze the MCL34 but this year’s MCL35 features much more of his input, and the technical director admits some significant changes have been made.
“Certain new concepts that we looked at alongside what we’ve learned from 34 last year have meant changes in a few areas,” Key said. “The bodywork is following a trend I think we’re seeing increasingly, with a very narrow sidepod — which is quite an exercise in packaging. You actually have to plan quite early for that kind of thing because it involves a lot of the engine installation and so on.
“We’ve done a similar exercise with the gearbox to match that philosophy.
“At the rear, there’s been a lot of work on the suspension, too. From the cockpit backwards is a very different approach to what we had before and what the conceptual side of things was. Equally there are a lot of technologies around the front which were only really possible with a new car.
“Having said all that, the 34 is very much the father of this car. We’ve tried to carry forward what we learned last year as we were going, and then add what we felt were opportunities we couldn’t unlock on the 34 with the geometry we had.”