Brown on McLaren arrival: ‘It was worse than I thought’

Sam Cooper
McLaren boss Zak Brown

Zak Brown has described the situation he walked into McLaren at as “worse than I thought it was going to be” following the team’s revival under his watch.

The American joined in November 2016 at a time when one of the most storied teams in the sport was at its lowest. The team, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button driving for them, finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship and suffered nine retirements across the season.

The year later, the downward spiral continued as they slumped to ninth in the 2017 Championship.

Brown, among others, has been credited for overturning both the team’s fortunes as well as the work ethic at the McLaren Technology Centre but the 50-year-old has admitted that when he first walked in there, it was worse than he had expected.

“It was worse than I thought it was going to be as far as the environment, what was going on,” he told FOX Sports. “I joined in the worst year in the history of McLaren.

“We were in our second year of the Honda relationship, which we struggled with, but logic would say the third is going to be better than the second. It actually ended up kind of being the other way around.

“I don’t think that was by any means all on Honda, it was the entire environment. So I thought I was coming in to something that was already on the rebound and what I figured out was actually it was still going down.

“So that was a surprise but I knew given how many races this team’s won, how many Championships this team’s won, that there was a lot of talent inside here, but they just maybe needed some fresh direction and leadership to unlock the talent that was here, is here, and it’s been a great journey.”

Under Brown, the team have finished as high as third in the Constructors’ and Lando Norris has emerged as one of the sport’s brightest talents. The team has also been described as one of the most positive in the paddock and this was demonstrated in the immediate aftermath of Daniel Ricciardo’s 2021 win at Monza.

“On kind of the cultural side, we’re having fun,” Brown said. “I think if you’re having fun racing, and how can you not have fun going racing? Even though not winning is not fun. But if you have fun, people are trusting and they work harder.

“This is a hard job. It’s a fun job, but it’s a hard job. Communication was poor, trust was low. So it was all kind of cultural were the problems. That was one thing.

“Then we had technical issues. Our wind tunnel is outdated, we have a new wind tunnel coming in, our simulator was old, our manufacturing facility was a bit outdated. So I found that culturally, we weren’t in a great place, the team wasn’t operating as a as a team, as a single unit. And then technically, we were behind in some of our investments.

“So it was those two things that [I] set about changing and so far, so good, but we’re still not where we want to be.”

Changing a Formula 1 team is no small feat and Brown said that it was definitely harder than he thought it would have been but that it has been worth it.

“I’ve enjoyed it and I think that makes it more enjoyable because when you get your first win in Monza, all the blood sweat and tears that went into that moment.

“In Spa, Lando was probably going to be on pole and then I would have hated that to be our first win, where you win a race that you never actually go racing.

“So to kind of go to Monza an iconic track finish one two, take the lead at the start, never looked back, best launches in the race, best pitstops in the race, fastest laps in the race. That just all came together so that was immensely rewarding.”


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