Zak Brown reveals behind-the-scenes secret to McLaren success

Thomas Maher
McLaren CEO Zak Brown poses with one of his cars on the grid at the Italian Grand Prix.

McLaren's Zak Brown on the grid at the Italian Grand Prix.

McLaren’s huge turnaround in 2023 has been praised by CEO Zak Brown, as his team angle to chase down fourth in the championship.

McLaren started off the year in the doldrums, with the MCL60 one of the less competitive machines on the grid – a massive blow for the confidence of Lando Norris and rookie teammate Oscar Piastri.

But the Woking-based team remained steadfast in their approach, committing to a concept change and a steady upgrade path that has slowly but surely ticked off the weaknesses of the car to transform it into what is now arguably the second-quickest package on the grid.

Zak Brown: Hats off to Andrea Stella

McLaren had scored just 17 points in total after the first eight races of the season, and remained mired near the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship. But, in the eight races since then, McLaren have scored 155 points to bring their tally to 172 – fewer than 50 points behind the foundering Aston Martin team, whose fortunes are the complete opposite of McLaren’s.

With fourth place overall looking increasingly unlikely, an unfathomable position from the troubles the team met with when they arrived in Bahrain to start the season, CEO Zak Brown was asked just how the turnaround had come about and what he put the improvement down to.

“It’s the same people that produced our car in Bahrain that are producing this great racing car now,” he said during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, where his drivers raced to second and third place on the podium.

“I think you got to give a lot of credit to [team boss] Andrea Stella and his whole leadership team and his leadership style, because he’s really unleashed the awesome talent that we’ve had in the factory.

“It’s the same people – so great leadership, great teamwork, collaboration, communication, and just hats off to everyone back to the factory and at the track for the awesome work they’ve done.

“They’ve kept their head down and just gotten on with it. We need to keep pushing.” recommends

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Andrea Stella: Focusing on the target isn’t good for actually achieving the target

The approach of Stella that had earned Brown’s praise was perhaps made evident when he spoke to the media about the possibility of catching Aston Martin for fourth place.

Rather than speculating about the possibility of securing a higher position, Stella said he wastes very little mental energy focusing on targets like that.

“The way we look at things is when you lead a team, or when you are part of the team, you don’t want to get overwhelmed by our need to do that,” he said.

“You almost need to focus on what’s the next right step to do. So our narrative, our message, is always about how we need to out-develop our competitors. We need to make sure we don’t have reliability problems. And we need to operate well on the track to exploit our competitiveness.

“Then we’ll see where we are at the end of the race, at the end of the championship, if that makes sense. It’s just how you approach things when you are inside a team.

“Because, otherwise, if you just think about your target, targets are good for a conversation. But it’s not good for doing the target.”

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