New McLaren Formula 1 boss Andrea Stella plans to be a “hands-on team principal” and has been tipped to ensure the team does not “miss a beat” after Andreas Seidl’s exit.
Stella is stepping up from his role as racing director to replace Seidl, who leaves McLaren to join Sauber next month as its new CEO ahead of it becoming Audi’s works F1 team.
As racing director, Stella was part of a three-person management team reporting to Seidl, and was essentially responsible for leading the race team on grand prix weekends.
That gave him intimate knowledge of the F1 organisation and meant he bought into how CEO Zak Brown wants it to run as he bids to steer McLaren back into title contention.
“In terms of how we continue for the future, there’s clearly elements of continuation,” said Stella when asked by The Race about how McLaren will be run in his tenure, with Stella having worked so closely with the previous team principal.
“I think we worked very well with Andreas, we established some very important directions. And we do want to consolidate them.
“At the same time, the vastness and the complexity of Formula 1 leaves the business always open for opportunities.
“It’s day one of the job for me. But this is what I’m thinking about intensively, and what I will be thinking about together with my leaders at McLaren, so that we can find the opportunities to go even faster towards achieving our mission.”
As Stella understands the race team well, he expects to “retain continuity” with the way it works trackside and anticipates his impact there to be “quite direct”.
But Stella admits he will need to rely on the leadership figures in the factory: technical director James Key and production director Piers Thynne were, alongside Stella, the other members of a three-pronged structure under Seidl.
“At the same time, which is a challenge in modern Formula 1, I do plan to be very present, very impactful on the factory side,” Stella said.
“But how do we configure this? It will require some thoughts.”
Stella’s familiarity with the team, his experience and the respect he commands internally all played into why McLaren opted to promote from within to replace Seidl.
McLaren has not indicated whether Stella will be replaced as ‘Executive Director, Racing’ or if the three-pronged leadership structure will end with Seidl’s departure.
CEO Brown has, however, indicated there will not be a “tremendous amount of change” in how the racing division is run.
“These are opportunities for everybody to step up,” said Brown.
“So, I’m very comfortable that between Andrea and myself, any modifications he may make, we’ve got it well-covered.”
He added: “As we try to build a team to get back to fighting for world championships, it has to be a team effort.
“And it feels like we won’t miss a beat versus introducing someone from the outside, because it takes quite a ways to get up to speed.
“If we didn’t have Andrea then that maybe would have been an alternative to look at.
“But it was very clear to all of us very quickly that we wanted Andrea to run the team.”
Brown has pledged to give Stella his direct support as necessary on the commercial and media side.
Stella, by his own admission, has been “reluctant” to have a prominent public-facing role in F1 until now.
However, he thinks that the respective backgrounds of him and Brown, a commercial expert, makes for a “very strong combination”.
“My style will be a hands-on kind of team principal,” he said.
“I think the opportunity we have is that I’ve been dealing with and exposed to the engineering and racing elements of Formula 1 throughout my career.
“And I will be close to the core objectives of the team, which ultimately is build a quick car and race this car effectively while on track.
“And if I may say, I think there’s really strong elements of integration and combination between my characteristics and Zak’s.”
Stella’s appointment is already said to have gone down well at Woking, which is no surprise given his pedigree and personality.
Prior to his increasing leadership responsibilities at McLaren, Stella was an experienced and respected engineer in the F1 paddock.
He worked with Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso at Ferrari before joining McLaren in 2015, and has first-hand knowledge of the leadership styles of the likes of Jean Todt and Stefano Domenicali.
“You can learn from anybody,” said Stella. “That’s a very strong philosophy of mine, especially when you can work together with strong personalities, very capable people.
“First of all, Jean Todt. His incredible dedication to the team, and to his role, is something that gave me [an example] of what it means to be committed.
“That was overall a kind of early imprint on my career in Formula 1, having had the privilege to work in such a successful environment as Ferrari in the 2000s.
“As for Stefano, he is definitely a people person. And Formula 1 is about engineering operations but is ultimately very much about people.
“So, from Stefano, I understood some elements and qualities that need to be highly regarded as a team principal, and also some ways of interacting with people based on respect, listening, and just managing your ego.
“Andreas, we worked [together] more closely. I think he also brought some engineering experience from previous periods.
“This was very useful for me also in shaping up the race team, making progress in some of the areas like pitstops. When we talk about the progress made in pitstops by McLaren, I would like to pay tribute to Andreas’s input.
“What I’m taking from collaborating with Andreas is the importance of knowing the business, the importance of knowing the technical, engineering, operational aspects, such that you can coach people, you can support people, in a more effective way to make progress.”