Sky F1 commentator David Croft detailed how McLaren feel the title-winning experience of former Red Bull stalwart Rob Marshall will provide that final star for the team around him.
McLaren have undergone a major restructuring of their key technical staff under the watch of new team principal Andrea Stella, and a further crucial puzzle piece has fallen into place with the news that Marshall, Red Bull’s long-standing chief engineering officer, will switch to McLaren for the start of 2024.
Marshall will become McLaren’s ‘technical director of engineering and design’ as part of a three-pronged technical assembly alongside David Sanchez, who also joins next year from Ferrari, and Peter Prodromou.
But on top of the skillset which Marshall will be able to apply to his McLaren role, team principal Stella, according to Croft, is also highly interested in how his experience can rub off on the McLaren staff working with him.
This is a team after all which has not claimed title glory since 2008, and so for sections of the McLaren personnel, the trophy-filled experiences which Marshall has had at Red Bull will be completely alien.
“On the subject of Rob Marshall, the signing from Red Bull, I think it’s a major step forward for McLaren,” said Croft, “and for Rob as well, 17 years at Red Bull. He’s obviously decided it’s time for a bit of a change.
“And I was talking to Andrea Stella, the team principal, last night actually. And he was saying, I see Rob, his expertise, his experienced in winning championships and races on one level, but as a mentor for the staff that we’ve already got, that’s a different level.
“He says, if I can put it like this, we’ve got used to staying in a four-star hotel, but Rob’s going to take us to a five-star hotel. And some of the staff we’ve got there at McLaren don’t quite know what you get in a five-star hotel and Rob is going to unlock that extra star.”
And when Stella was asked about this recruitment drive by Croft’s Sky F1 colleague Craig Slater, it was put to him that there is apparently shades of Ross Brawn in Marshall for his pragmatic and practical approach which can turn vision into reality.
Brawn of course had well-documented experience of joining a project like this McLaren one back in the days when Ferrari redesigned themselves to become Formula 1’s dominant force of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It was another key figure in that resurgence though which Stella highlighted as a better comparison to Marshall, that being Ferrari’s designer at the time Rory Byrne.
“From what I’ve understood about Rob I would say he is more of a Rory Byrne,” said Stella.
“He’s a proper designer, he is about the car, while Ross was a phenomenal manager, a great people leader, a great organiser, Rob for what I understand is a very technical person, very focused on the car.”
It is no surprise that Red Bull right now are the supermarket of choice for rival teams on the search for new additions, considering the team’s dominant form in this era of ground effect aerodynamics.
And calling the shots has been the legendary Adrian Newey, whose experience of designing title-winning cars stretches across Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.
Stella was asked then if McLaren gets a bit of this “Newey influence” with Marshall, though the McLaren boss made it clear that they wanted Marshall for what he specifically brings to the table.
“Firstly, by signing Rob, we wanted Rob,” Stella affirmed, “and specifically, I would say, we feel we are very strongly covered from an aerodynamic point of view with Peter Prodromou, who, by the way, worked alongside Newey for a long time.
“In terms of performance and concept with David Sanchez, and we wanted to be on the front foot from an engineering and design point of view and Rob is perfectly fitting this kind of profile.”
While a return to the top of the F1 grid is what McLaren desire, for now their immediate concern is challenging the likes of Alpine, having fallen behind their rivals to P6 in the Constructors’ Championship heading into the Spanish Grand Prix.