Formula 1

Zak Brown: “I joined in the worst year in the history of McLaren”

Following the team’s comeback under his leadership, Zak Brown has said that the state he stepped into McLaren at was “worse than I imagined it was going to be.”
The American joined the squad in November 2016, when it was at its lowest point and one of the most legendary teams in sports. The team had nine retirements throughout the season and finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button at the wheel.
The next year, they continued to go downward as they finished eighth in the 2017 Championship.
A number of people, including Brown, have been given credit for turning around the team’s fortunes and the work ethic at the McLaren Technology Centre, but the 50-year-old has acknowledged that when he first arrived, things were worse than he had anticipated.
According to the atmosphere and what was happening, “It was worse than I anticipated it was going to be,” he told FOX Sports. “I joined at the worst year in McLaren’s history. The second year of our partnership with Honda was difficult for us, but logically, the third year should be better than the first. In the end, things worked out somewhat differently. That wasn’t just Honda’s fault, in my opinion; it was the ecosystem as a whole. I therefore mistakenly believed that I was entering something that was already on the upswing while, in fact, it was still falling. That came as a surprise, but given how many races and championships this team has won, I knew there was a lot of potential on this team. They may have simply needed some new leadership and direction to bring out the talent that was there to begin with.

Not that Monza would be quickly forgotten. #McLaren #F1
— Zak Brown, October 23, 2021, via Twitter

Lando Norris has become one of the sport’s most promising athletes under Brown, and the team has placed as high as third in the Constructors’. The squad has also been cited as one of the most upbeat in the pit lane, and this was evident right after Daniel Ricciardo’s victory at Monza in 2021.
We’re having fun, sort of, on the cultural side,” Brown added. “I believe that if you’re having fun while racing, how can you not enjoy yourself while doing it? Even though losing is not enjoyable. But if you’re having fun, people will believe you and work harder. It’s a challenging job. It’s a challenging work, but it’s fun. Trust was low and communication was weak. Thus, the issues were all of a cultural nature. That was a start. Then we ran into technological problems. Our production plant was a little out of date, our simulator was obsolete, and a new wind tunnel is soon to be installed. I discovered that our team wasn’t functioning as a team or as a single unit, and that our culture wasn’t in a fantastic place. Technically speaking, we were also behind on some of our investments. So I started working on addressing those two things, and things are doing well so far, but we’re still not where we want to be.
Changing a Formula 1 team is no easy task, and Brown acknowledged that it was harder than he anticipated but that the effort was worthwhile.
“I’ve enjoyed it and I think that makes it more enjoyable because when you get your first win in Monza, all the blood sweat and tears that went into that moment. “
In Spa, Lando was probably going to be on pole and then I would have hated that to be our first win, where you win a race that you never actually go racing. “So to kind of go to Monza an iconic track finish one two, take the lead at the start, never looked back, best launches in the race, best pitstops in the race, fastest laps in the race. That was very satisfying because it simply all came together.