McLaren make declaration over future title challenge prospects after upturn in form

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris followed by Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the 2024 Miami Grand Prix.

Lando Norris followed by Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

McLaren’s Zak Brown believes the Woking-based team now has all the ingredients it needs to become a title contender in the near future.

With McLaren becoming race winners again after Lando Norris defeated Max Verstappen in Miami, it marks the latest high point of a years-long resurgence by a team that was mired towards the back of the field less than a decade ago.

Zak Brown: McLaren has everything it needs

The dark days of the ill-fated McLaren/Honda partnership seems like a lifetime ago, when Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, and Jenson Button spent their weekends picking up huge grid penalties for unreliable power units before tootling around towards the back.

The split of the two parties has resulted in success for both – Honda going on to win multiple titles with Red Bull, while McLaren embarked on a comprehensive revolution to breathe new life into the former behemoth of F1.

Under Zak Brown, Andrea Stella became team boss following the departure of Andreas Seidl to Sauber, while investments in infrastructure were made back at the Woking factory, and a switch to Mercedes power rekindled a particularly successful partnership dating back to the 1990s.

On the commercial side, the efforts of Brown to attract top-level sponsors may have turned the McLaren cars into a mobile billboard, but their roster of partners is perhaps the envy of the entire F1 grid with the likes of Monster, Google Hilton, OKX, and DP World.

With the win in Miami showcasing the huge progress McLaren has made – particularly over the past two years – Brown said he believes the pieces are all now in place to start thinking about being able to challenge for a world title.

“Yeah, I think we do,” he said on the Beyond the Grid podcast, when asked if he feels McLaren now has what it needs to go and compete at the very front.

“You’re always fine-tuning the machine, you’re always investing in more technologies, but there’s nothing that’s like on the to-do list that isn’t normal course of business.

“The to-do list was [we] needed a wind tunnel, needed some big stuff – the team we have in place, of course, you’re doing a little bit more hiring, you’re always looking to improve.

“But I’m very happy with our technical leadership team, our commercial, our finance, all the elements that go around. So yeah, I think we have what we need, we just need to continue to move forward as a team.”

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Zak Brown: McLaren is not far away from competing for titles

With McLaren occupying third in the championship, and now consistently able to challenge for second and third places in the championship, Brown is hungry for more.

“We’re satisfied with where we are today, given the quest that we’re on,” he said.

“But the goal is to win the world championship, and win races. It’s not easy, and it’s been a while since we’ve done it. But we’re bound and determined and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Brown pointed to the example of 2023 as being indicative of the quality within the squad, when the team bounced back from a mis-step in its development to produce an upgrade package and clear development steps to go from one of the slowest cars on the grid to one of the quickest.

“The vision, of course, is to be competing for the world championship. So we’re not there yet. But I feel like we have everything in place to get there,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re very far away. I think the recovery that the team made last year from the start of the year to the middle of the year was outstanding.

“That really showed a lot about our team, our character, and our culture. I don’t think we would have done that in 2020. But we did it in 2023. And it’s great to start the ’24 season, where we left off with the ’23 season.”

Comparing the team with that of 2020, Brown said the steps made even over those four years make it superior to what had been in place not that long ago.

“I think we’re a much better team. Andrea is doing an awesome job now as our team principal, leading the team,” he said of Stella.

“We’ve got great men and women who have been doing great work, giving us a fast race car. We’ve got two outstanding drivers, I think we’ve settled on a driver lineup that we’re very happy with and will be with us for the foreseeable future.

“I think we have everything we need technically, we talked a lot about the wind tunnel that needed to come and new simulation and CFD – things of that nature – which are all here.

“Now it’s just about continuing to work together as a team and letting some of these things we have mature and help give us a faster racecar.”

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