Formula 1

How McLaren will manage without key new arrival for 9 months

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

McLaren’s “tactical” plan to manage the transitional period before its Formula 1 team’s new technical organisation is complete includes deploying a design legend and more hands-on input from team boss Andrea Stella.

An overhaul of the McLaren technical structure has been initiated in response to its disappointing development in F1’s new ground-effect era that began last year.

Technical director James Key has been ousted and replaced by a multi-person technical executive team that will include ex-Ferrari head of vehicle concept Davide Sanchez.

However, Sanchez is on gardening leave from Ferrari and will not be able to join McLaren until next January.

Stella has admitted that means a “transition period” is necessary and he is expected to be more hands-on with the technical team than his predecessor Andreas Seidl was.

Some other measures have been put in place to compensate for a key missing part of what Stella calls a technical “model”, rather than a structure.

This includes giving more F1 responsibility to McLaren Racing director of design and development Neil Oatley, a key member of McLaren’s design team for decades including five title-winning cars from 1989 to 1999.

Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlo (mc) 13 16 05 1999

“There’s groups that will report onto Davide, like the vehicle performance group, some other performance analysis, competencies that we have in race engineering – they will kind of step up in terms of contributing to the concept and to the performance analysis,” Stella said.

“I’m even more involved myself in supporting the technical execs from the car concept point of view.

“And we have also deployed Neil Oatley, that you all may know, helping in this transitional phase.

“So, we have strong resources available at McLaren. We are going to make in the short term a bit of a tactical usage of these resources, while the long-term is a strategic foundation.”

In addition to the management-level changes McLaren has initiated in recent weeks, which installs Sanchez alongside existing McLaren employees Peter Prodromou and Neil Houldey as the three most senior technical personnel, the team has been conducting a significant engineering recruitment drive since last year.

This is to rectify a personnel deficit it created by cutting its team too much to get prepared for the cost cap in 2021.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Practice Day Melbourne, Australia

McLaren is not commenting on individual names but its hires are reported to include Aston Martin’s chief of aerodynamic technology Mariano Alperin – formerly Honda’s and then Sauber’s head of aerodynamics.

“McLaren has always come across as a very exciting prospect for the people we have interviewed,” said Stella.

“And everyone understands the ambition we have. Everyone understands that if we turn the situation around that McLaren, we are making history, and everyone wants to be part of it.

“I wouldn’t say that attracting talent has been complicated.

“The effect of the change of model is too recent to actually affect the process of recruitment.

“The way we have approached recruitment overall, is part of this philosophy of a performance-led organisation and even the way you recruit people you think about performance.

“It means we are aggressive from this point of view as required to compete in Formula 1.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Practice Day Melbourne, Australia

Though the overhaul started last year it appears that Seidl’s departure to Sauber in December has given McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown the opportunity to spark changes he felt were not going to be made under the previous regime.

Stella, by contrast, has often referred to the “mandate” he was given to evolve the team as he saw fit as team principal, with the technical restructuring and his decision to work with the technical executive team more closely two clear examples of that.

Brown said: “Ultimately, my job as CEO, the buck stops with me. [But] these big decisions, you never take alone, you always consult your leadership team.

“There’s nothing on the technical front or within the racing team that Andrea and I don’t discuss and aren’t aligned on.

“It’s a competitive sport, when you aren’t performing at the level in which you think you should, you need to make decisions to change course.

“That’s what we’ve done. And I’m confident with the direction we’re headed now.”

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