According to CEO Zak Brown, McLaren has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with in Formula One, and he anticipates they will be in a position to win championships by 2025.
At the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo achieved McLaren’s only victory since the last race of the 2012 season. The team’s most recent driver’s championship was won by Lewis Hamilton back in 2008, when he was only in his second Formula 1 season.
Completion of McLaren’s much-awaited wind tunnel, which has been postponed due to difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to take place in the middle of 2023. Brown believes this will be the last piece of the puzzle.
Brown stated ahead of the upcoming season that he hopes within two to three years they will be able to compete with the top three teams. However, he added that the essential technological infrastructure is not yet fully established…
“I think we’re two to three years away. I’d love this year to look like ’21, mixing it up with the top three. But we still don’t have all of our technology infrastructure in place.”
“By ’24, we will have had it in place but not for the entire development of the ’24 car. So ’24 I’d like to think would be a good step forward, where I think we could be mixing it up on a more regular basis.”
“Then in ’25 we have everything we need — drivers, people, resources, wind tunnel, simulator. There’s no reason why, on paper, we shouldn’t be in a position to be challenging at the front on a regular basis by ’25. That’s certainly our ambition.”
“There were some investments we would make as a Formula One team that we chose not to make, because we made them into our wind tunnel. So it’s just not been an optimal operating situation, which will change here middle of the year.”
Come 2022, McLaren’s growth trajectory since Brown became the CEO showed signs of regression. Dropping from fourth to fifth in the championship standings, the team’s worst finish since 2018 came at the hands of Alpine, their mid-field rival.
Ricciardo’s initial struggles, resulting in his exit from the team prior to the end of his contract, certainly had an impact on their championship standing; however, Brown is convinced that the team has progressed as a race organization.
“In a positive year there’s learnings and there’s failures along the way. I think we’re a better racing team today than we were a year ago. That’s positive. I look at the way we started ’22 with our brake issue in Bahrain. … It was iffy if we were even going to race in Bahrain. So the positive of that was I was impressed at how the team reacted, how quickly they fixed the problem.
“When I took over as CEO in 2016 that was coming off of the worst year in the history of McLaren, ninth, our fans were disappointed in us, morale in the factory was low, we had very little sponsorship. Five years later, we’ve won a race, almost won another, we’ve had a pole, we’ve had nine podiums, we’ve been third, fourth, fifth, we’ve been mixing it up at the front.”
According to Brown, since his arrival, McLaren’s racing enterprise, which covers more than just Formula One, has reached new heights.
“We have a car packed with [sponsorship from] Google, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola, Dell, Cisco, some of the world’s greatest company’s supporting us. We were losing over $100 million a year, we’re now profitable. We’ve got all our infrastructure coming online this year.
“We didn’t have an IndyCar team, a championship-calibre team, going with three cars all capable of winning races, the championship and the Indy 500. We’ve acquired a Formula E team and had our first podium in Extreme E. We’re always going to have those ebbs and flows over the period, but if you look at where we were as McLaren Racing in 2018 to where we are now, we’ve made great strides.
“But we’re only halfway to the journey, right? We want to win races and championships and everything. I feel like we’ve got the foundation, people, technology, financial backing, to be able to see that light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s going to be damn hard.”