Zak Brown says he is happy to repay the faith shown by McLaren shareholders on him after the turnaround F1 season in 2019.
After Brown joined McLaren in 2016, the team’s condition worsened as their results plummeted, and their Honda partnership – initiated by Ron Dennis – failed. The team ended the contract and moved to Renault in 2018, but even then, the year was a disaster.
This provoked whispers of conversation among the F1 community with regards to Brown’s worthiness of being a team-running figure, until 2019 when McLaren had a resurgence and the American gained a better reputation, of being a team leader.
The F1 troubles co-incided with the shambles at Indy500, especially in 2019, when the team couldn’t even start the race with Fernando Alonso. Having secured fourth in the constructors’ standings with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, Brown was a relieved man.
While he stated that he always had unconditional support from the McLaren shareholders and board members, Brown admitted that a year of moderate success in 2019 provided satisfaction for him as he proved his value, with more yet to come.
“Yes, of course [it feels good],” said Brown to media including FormulaRapida.net. “I’ve always had great shareholder support, so I never had any concerns over me and the job I was doing, because I think they’ve been in racing longer than I have.
“He [McLaren Group’s chief] knows how long it takes to turn something around, and we really didn’t start making changes until July of the 2018 F1 season, so I knew I had the support from the board, and the shareholders.
“I think in a relatively short period of time, the team’s done a really good job of reversing [backward] momentum and creating [forward] momentum. And so, of course, I’m much more enjoyable. Coming to the racetrack, the team atmosphere from where it was 12 months ago, and I feel like we’re just going to get stronger and stronger.
“We’re going to have bad days, we’re going to have bad weekends, but I feel like we’re going in the right direction, and we’re bringing on more sponsor partners, [the] fanbase is strong, we can feel the momentum, but we’re gonna crash along the way.”
Brown also touched upon what he personally thought was the cause of their F1 2019 turnaround, in which they bounced back to fourth in the championship. He ultimately put it down to focus and the removal of politics from the team structure.
“Leadership, teamwork, focus, so if I kind of unravel that, I think, if I look at when I started, there were a lot of chefs in the kitchen; lot of stuff going on within the company, with shareholders, so there just was a lack of focus, lack of direction in leadership, and I wouldn’t even put that down to one person,” started Brown.
“It was just kinda– there wasn’t alignment. So, if we look at the changes we’ve made, you know, Andreas, who’s done an excellent job. Obviously he didn’t build the car that was done in 2018, but his focus that he’s brought to the team, [his] leadership, he restructured, so [it’s] a much simpler organisation.
“We got James Key on board, Andreas Stella has stepped up, so it’s not even just about the new people that have come in. It’s been, there are people stepping up and being empowered, having clear mandates of what is required of them, so it’s kinda the leadership direction and [getting] the politics out of the team.
“I think when you have a lack of leadership and direction then things can become political, so I think we’ve taken that out of the organisation, and with that came a better-developed racecar and two new, exciting, very fast drivers that work really well together.
“So, I think all those things and many more have just started to kinda come together and create momentum, and I think this is a – as all business is – it’s a momentum game, you know, and look at Mercedes, look at when Red Bull came in, and we needed to kinda reverse this backward momentum into forward momentum, and now we need to build on.”
One of the bigger steps taken by McLaren is the deal with Mercedes from 2021 onward. It makes 2020 less countable but the team will hoping to continue with the momentum. The work on MCL35 is already on and they are to reveal the car on February 13.
Here’s Zak Brown on McLaren benefiting from new pairing
Here’s James Key on the progress from Carlos Sainz
Here’s news on management shuffle at McLaren from 2020
Here’s Lando Norris outlining what McLaren has to do in 2020
Here’s James Key on McLaren’s new F1 simulator
Here’s Zak Brown denouncing Lando Norris-Mercedes deal
The story was edited by Duncan Leahy