Zak Brown interview: ‘People expect McLaren to win... we’ll be able to deliver on that in 2025’
The McLaren rebuild is like a complex jigsaw, and Zak Brown is steadily shifting the final pieces into place.
Gone is Daniel Ricciardo — paid a multi-million severance package to not drive for the team — so, too, technical boss James Key at the end of March, essentially paying the price for the team’s lack of pace.
New arrivals have come on board, with others to follow in the coming year. In addition, the factory rebuild and the wind tunnel are reaching their conclusion. Slowly, the McLaren CEO is near to completing his puzzle.
The aim is to get McLaren back to the top of a sport it once dominated, with 12 drivers’ titles and eight constructors’ championships. Since Lewis Hamilton’s last season with the team in 2012, McLaren have won just one grand prix — with Ricciardo in 2021. The last drivers’ title was Hamilton’s first in 2008, their last constructors’ win a decade earlier.
With the full picture taking shape, Brown is “confident but not cocky” that the team will regain its spot at the front of the grid.
“I think we will have everything we need, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t,” he said. “But we can’t underestimate the challenge. Think about Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, unbelievable teams that had it all laid out for years.
“Breaking into that is tough, beating that is even tougher, but we will have everything they will and playing with the same size bat, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. It’s not like we’ve never done it before.”
Brown has had time to dwell on the scale of the task following the called-off race in Imola. The team’s last track outing before this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix brought 17th and 19th-place finishes in Miami.
There is pressure every day on Brown, who is surrounded by the team’s past glories at their HQ. He knows the buck stops with him, but the question is when will that change for the better come?
“I think we will have everything we need for the 2025 season,” he said. “So, the only thing we won’t have in 2025 is time together. What do you need? Two great drivers — we think we have those (Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri). The right structure — we think we have that. You need the right people — we’ve identified that and we’re still hiring.
“Everything will be in place by the middle of 2024, which doesn’t bring much benefit until 2025.”
Everything will be in place by the middle of 2024, which doesn’t bring much benefit until 2025
So, when can he himself be judged? After all, he is the team’s puppet master overseeing the changes. And if it doesn’t go to plan, what then? He insists answering that hypothetical question is impossible, but says the most crucial final piece of the rebuild is getting the right culture.
Brown and McLaren have been following the All Blacks’ mantra of a “no d***heads policy” in their hiring. The American likes his employees to have autonomy, to push the boundaries and not be afraid to make mistakes. The only thing he asks is they don’t make the same mistake twice.
“The culture is going to be the biggest part of what’s going to be critical,” he said. “Can we pull it all together and be a united, totally aligned, focused racing team? That’s part of my job to bring the momentum together at the same time.
“That’s why other sports teams click. It’s why underdog teams win in a World Cup. They may not have been better man-for-man, but they come together culturally, and that’s what we need to focus on.”
Brown does not see his team as underdogs, but clambering to get back to past glories and meet his expectations and those of its army of fans.
“When you’re Manchester United or Chelsea or the New York Yankees or the Miami Dolphins, historically significant teams with a massive fanbase, that comes with added pressure,” he added. “People expect us to win.”