McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has stated that the team’s excuses for not being in F1 title contention will not make any sense by 2024, when it aims to be fully ready with its expanded infrastructure.

McLaren are in the process of an infrastructure overhaul with a state of the art wind tunnel and simulator coming for 2022 with any effects not bearing fruit until 2024. The Woking outfit have invested heavily in these areas as the team looks to continue their upwards trajectory through the F1 pecking order and back to the front, fighting for titles with main rivals Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.

“Speaking about ourselves, we are definitely in that timeline,” said Brown to media including “I think it’s always dangerous to pick a point in time when you should be going for it.” He has set a clear milestone from which McLaren will have no excuses for not performing, yet also being careful not to pinpoint a specific time as this can be detrimental. A glimpse at his management style there.

“Unfortunately, we’re in one of the less technically developed wind tunnels and that’s a huge disadvantage,” said Brown. “So I think we’ll have no excuses come the 2024 season. I would like to think at that point, the sport is going to be so competitive that there’ll be a variety of teams fighting for the championship. I’d like to think we’d be one of them.”

With the 2022 regulations set and designed to make the racing closer and the performance gulf smaller, this makes sense. It’s an opportunity for McLaren to get back to the front, and an opportunity they have no excuse to miss, rule changes or not.

Since Brown took over in 2017, McLaren’s performance has turned around dramatically, and his impact has been profound. “When I joined, we’ve gone ninth, sixth, fourth and third and we are in third now,” he said. “And I think it gets tougher as you get closer to the front. So I don’t think it’s going to be second and first, that would be nice, but I don’t think that’ll happen.

“While we now have the annual resources to compete at the same level as everyone else, we are behind on our infrastructure. And while we’ve let loose the investment, it’s simply going to take time, most notably the wind tunnel. And given how important that is, we can’t make up that lost time,” summed up Brown.

Patience has been crucial at McLaren for the past decade, a team so used to winning has had to battle in the midfield and at the back and Brown is calling for yet more patience before they take that leap into first or second, while they continue to utilise the Toyota’s Cologne facility to its fullest.

McLaren secured funding back in December ensuring their future in the sport and the resources have been allocated in all the right places to take them forward. It’s just a case of waiting for the time lag to bear fruit. And of course, the further you get to the front the harder it gets as the competition around you is stronger and beating the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull is no easy feat.

“It’s going to take a couple years to finish the wind tunnel,” said Brown. “We really won’t be, in our opinion, caught up on our infrastructure until the 2024 car comes out. Until then, we will be doing the best we can with the equipment that we have. But I think until we get caught up it’ll be difficult to think that we could beat those guys in a straight fight.”

It’s just a case of holding on until 2024 but in the meantime, Brown says McLaren will give their best and cites the example of Brawn GP too. “We are going to give it our best shot, and you never know with the new formula who’s going to get it right, who’s going to get it wrong,” he said. “Brawn obviously punched above their weight when they won the championship and they weren’t the biggest-resourced team.

“But also, I think the rules are so much tighter now that to come up with a big, clear advantage like that is going to be more difficult. We’re going to give it our best shot, but I think we should manage expectations that it’s going to get tougher from here on out,” summed up Brown.

Whilst anomalies like 2009 and Brawn are more and more rare these days, Brown sees this as a lesson from which his team can learn and take inspiration from. But obviously 2009 and the present are very different eras, in the short term it’s a case of consolidation for Brown and McLaren before title bids are made.

The fact that McLaren have produced the third best car on the grid from their current resources boads well for the next few years, but after that sky is the limit for what this illustrious F1 team can once again achieve.

The story was written by Ollie Pattas

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