McLaren Racing’s Zak Brown is excited about Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris pairing as he trusts Carlos Sainz with team’s data ahead of his Ferrari F1 switch.
At the start of the 2018 F1 season, the core McLaren executive team comprised of Eric Boullier, Matt Morris, and Tim Goss with Honda as engine partner. However, as we now are aware of, that was all about to change over the course of just a few seasons.
Now, as we approach F1 2020, that team includes the likes of Andreas Seidl, James Key, and Andrea Stella with Renault as partners now and Mercedes to come in from 2021. In fact, the driver line-up has also been modified.
Prior to 2019, the duo was Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, but then, after a dramatic mid-field driver market reshuffle in 2018, Sainz made a move to the team, and rookie Norris stepped up to F1 to partner him.
Before the team landed on these two, though, they openly considered Ricciardo as a candidate to be part of their multi-level restructuring. The Australian refused their offers, choosing Renault instead.
At the time it was the wise move given Renault’s top-of-the-mid-field performance, but in the season that followed his career move decision – 2019 – McLaren had a resurgence of sorts, climbing to fourth in the constructor’s championship.
And so at the second time of asking a few short weeks ago, when Sainz left the British team for Ferrari, Ricciardo opted to make the move that he didn’t in 2018, and to McLaren supremo Brown, Ricciardo’s reversal signifies the immense progress the team has made.
He added that McLaren’s willingness to put their money where their mouth was likely was a turn-on for the Australian. “We’re super excited to have Daniel,” said Brown to Sky Sports. “We tried to get him onto the team two years ago, and having spoken to him on why he made his decision, when we were coming off a very poor year, and we kind of shared with him our plans, but we hadn’t executed, and I think now a year on, he’s seen that we put our money where our mouth is so to speak.
“To have a seven-times Grand Prix winner — we’ve always had winners and world champions in our cars and he’s going to bring a lot of excitement. The duo of Daniel and Lando will be awesome on-track and off-track too. Two great personalities. But, that’s 2021. Right now, we’re very focused on 2020, and Carlos did an outstanding job last year, and he’s going to want to go out on a high with us as well.”
Brown added of Ricciardo partnering Norris: “They’re at two different stages of their careers. I think Daniel is a championship-calibre driver today, I don’t think we’ll quite give him a championship-calibre car in 2021. We’re still on our road to recovery, but I think we’ll give him a competitive car, and then in 2022 let’s see what happens. He’s a great benchmark for Lando, and yeah, it’s very exciting.”
The bad news for McLaren is that they’ll be losing Sainz – a driver that was praised for his 2019 performances, and while McLaren will be wishing they had somehow been able to retain the services of all three drivers, they can take solace in the fact that they have reason to trust that he won’t take secrets from his former team to his new outfit.
Brown explained that he expects the Spaniard to be loyal even after switching to Ferrari, and for this reason the F1 team will have an open relationship with him. “We’re racing together in 2020, we want to have a lot of success together in 2020,” said Brown. “He’s a professional, we’re professionals.
“I think if you start holding back information, then you are not going to have a successful 2020 together, so I think we’ve got to focus on 2020, maximising it. I think holding back is not productive. And our ’21 car is going to look like ’20. If the ’21 car had been a brand new car, you then find yourself in an uncomfortable situation in sharing information on next year’s car.
“But next year’s car is effectively going to be this year’s car, so I’m not concerned about the integrity of Carlos. We’ll be open with him. Fortunately, we have an excellent relationship with Carlos. We were very transparent over the winter, he’s a professional, I think he’s done a great job for us.
“We’re family, we’re friends – unlike some of these other departures. I think the Vettel/Leclerc Ferrari garage could be quite exciting this year, sometimes for the right reasons, sometimes for the wrong reasons. But I think we’ve got harmony in our garage, and I think Carlos and Lando are very competitive with each other, have respect for each other, and I’m quite proud of how we’ve handled it.
“I think we’ve become a team that drivers like to drive for. If you look at our relationship with Fernando, it’s been very, very strong – even when we weren’t giving him a competitive car. I like to think we’ve created an environment where drivers like to come drive for McLaren,” summed up Brown.
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The story was edited by Darshan Chokhani