McLaren boss Zak Brown says the famous F1 team is on the cusp of regaining its status as one of the sport’s ‘big teams’ ahead of the 2021 F1 season.
Brown took over the historically successful F1 team at the end of 2018 after a dismal stretch of seasons, which began in 2014 with an ill-fated switch to Honda powered engines.
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Consistently underpowered and aerodynamically behind the curve, McLaren’s switch back to Renault for the 2018 season wasn’t the cure many thought it would be, with the team still anchored in the bottom half of the F1 standings.
Improvement came quickly under Brown, with a new driver lineup of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris and significant performances improvements helping the team regain its status as a leading midfield team.
McLaren went one step further in the disrupted 2020 season, scoring three podiums and third in the constructors championship.
Expectations are now high with seven-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo replacing the Ferrari-bound Sainz, and Brown hasn’t shied away from them one bit.
The improved on-track performance, combined with new investment in the team and a cost cap coming into F1 next season to restore some competitive balance, has Brown feeling bullish about McLaren’s standing in the paddock.
"We'll run at the cost cap now, so I think we'll be back being one of the 'big' teams," Brown said in an interview with Sky Sports F1.
"So it's great. We're turning on our wind tunnel project, our [capital expenditure]. We have some catching up so do so it's going to take some time, but I like the journey we're on."
McLaren thrilled by Daniel Ricciardo prospects
Brown has consistently spoken of McLaren’s desire to get Australian star Ricciardo on the team, with the Woking-based team interesting in Ricciardo long before his 2020 decision to join them.
McLaren were among Ricciardo’s potential suitors after his shock decision to leave Red Bull during the 2018 season.
By Brown’s own admission, the team’s poor performances prior to their 2019 turnaround were likely the reason why Ricciardo opted to join Renault for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
“A couple of years ago we were coming off a horrific season, one of our worst in McLaren history and really all I could do at that point was promise or make claims to Daniel on what my intentions were,” Brown told the In the Fast Lane podcast.
“But at that point it’s just words – ‘I’m going to get a great team principal, I’m going to get a great technical director, we’re going to get the resources we need’ ... it was a lot of promises.
“Understandably he went all sounds good, but you are coming off one of the worst seasons in McLaren’s history and I think ultimately it didn’t get him over the line for those reasons.”
Despite failing on their first attempt to woo Ricciardo, Brown felt much more confident about their second round of negotiations.
“A year later, we have a very strong season, now I can say instead of saying I’m going to get a great team principal, I can say I got Andreas Seidl, who I think is making a huge difference in the team. I’m going to get a great technical director, I got one, James Key.
“(Ricciardo’s) a huge Andreas fan and I think that had a big part in his decision making progress as he says ‘Andreas is a monster’, and I think he means that in a good way.
“A year on he was able to see I put my money where my mouth was so to speak and the results were coming … that is ultimately why he made the decision this time around.”
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