McLaren chief Zak Brown reveals he fears ‘what might be coming’

Michelle Foster
Zak Brown on McLaren pit wall. Australia, Melbourne. March 2023

Zak Brown on the pit wall. Australia, Melbourne. March 2023

As normal service resumed in Japan, Max Verstappen running riot over his rivals in practice, Zak Brown admits it’s a “bit scary” for Red Bull’s rivals to consider what might come next.

Last time out in Singapore, Red Bull slumped to their first defeat of this season with Verstappen and his team-mate Sergio Perez punted out of qualifying in Q2 and only able to recover to fifth and eighth respectively.

It was a strange weekend for the team who struggled to find a good set-up, never mind a perfect one, but team boss Christian Horner warned rivals at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend that their Singapore woes were “circuit-specific”.

Zak Brown: So that’s a bit scary what might be coming

And with that Verstappen promptly resumed normal service to dominate the practice sessions where he was six-tenths up in FP1 and still held a comfortable margin of 0.3s in Friday’s second session.

He went on to claim the practice hat-trick with a P1 in final practice where he was 0.240s faster than McLaren driver Lando Norris.

The Dutchman’s pace put paid to any suggestions Red Bull are on the decline, or that the newly introduced FIA technical directives had hurt them.

In fact, McLaren CEO Brown says he’s a bit scared about what could come next.

“I think we’ll be competitive around here,” he told Sky Sports in Japan. “Max is back in the front again, so it was fun while it lasted.

“I would imagine given Red Bull’s dominance, they turned off their development quicker than others to focus on next year’s car. So that’s a bit scary what might be coming.

“The rest of us are continuing to chase, but the rules are pretty stable. So I think everything that we’re learning now will apply to next year’s car.”

That’s good news for McLaren who introduced their second big upgrade of the season in Singapore with Norris racing his way to second place. The Briton missed out on the race win by a mere 0.8s to Carlos Sainz.

Brown says it’s a case of so far, so good.

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“I feel like we’ve got a really competitive racing car now for the balance of the year because we’ve been to enough different types of tracks,” said the American.

“So to get them bolted on the car and seeing it work is just a testament to how good the team is doing, how confident they are in the design and development and manufacturing.”

McLaren are fifth in the Constructors’ Championship with 139 points with their deficit to Aston Martin down to 78 points.

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