Zak Brown described the situation in which he came to McLaren as “worse than I thought” after the team took over under his leadership.
The American joined McLaren in November 2016 at a time when one of the sport’s most legendary teams was at historic lows. The team, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button at the wheel, finished sixth in the constructors’ championship and suffered nine casualties during the season, the second with Honda F1.
The following year the downward spiral continued with ninth place in the 2017 championship.
It has been attributed to Brown who turned his mood and work ethic upside down at the McLaren Technology Center, the Woking factory.
“It was worse than I thought in terms of the environment, the environment, what was going on. I joined this company in what was going to be 2017 the worst year in McLaren history.”
“We were in our second year of relationship with Honda, which we struggled with, but logic dictated that the third was better than the second. In fact, it ended up going the other way.”
“It wasn’t ‘it’s all Honda’s fault’ in any way, but the whole environment. As I thought I was entering a structure that was already recovering, I quickly realized that it was actually continuing to decline.”
“So it was a surprise, but I knew that given the number of races this team had won, the number of championships won, there was a lot of talent here, but maybe they just needed a new direction and a new leadership to unleash the talent. that was here, who’s here, and it’s been a great epic. ”
Since then, the team has recovered well and finished third in the constructors and Lando Norris has become one of the most brilliant drivers in the sport. McLaren was also described as one of the most positive teams in the paddock: Ron Dennis could never have had that title!
“Probably! It’s true that when it comes to team culture, we’re having fun now.” Brown replied. “If you have fun competing, and how could it be otherwise, even if not winning isn’t fun, people trust you and work harder.”
“F1 is hard work, in any position. It’s fun, but hard work. Communication was bad, trust was low. So they were all kinds of cultural issues. It was something to solve.”
“Then we had technical problems. Our wind tunnel is obsolete, we have a new wind tunnel, our simulator was old, our production plant was a bit obsolete. So I discovered that culturally we weren’t in a great place. “The team doesn’t work as a team, as a single unit. And then technically, we were behind on some of our investments.”
“So these are the two things I’ve decided to change and so far so good, but we’re still not where we want to be.”
Changing a Formula 1 team is no easy task and Brown admits it was certainly harder than he thought, but it was worth it.
“I liked the trip and that makes it more enjoyable because when you get your first win in Monza all the blood, sweat and tears that happened at that time make sense.”
“At Spa, Lando was probably going to be pole and I would have hated it to be our first win, where you win a race you’ve never done.
“So, in Monza, an emblematic track, finishing one and two, taking the lead at the start, without ever looking back, the best pit stops of the race, the fastest laps of the race. All in all, that s “It’s been very rewarding.”