181124 Zak Brown 11
Zak Brown Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: The chief executive officer of McLaren Racing is confidently looking ahead to returning to the glory days as he seeks to build the Formula 1 team around outgoing two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

Zak Brown, the American businessman and former professional racing driver who currently resides in London, was announced as CEO of McLaren in April as part of an operational restructure of the McLaren Group. Under the new management structure, racing director Eric Boullier now reports directly to Brown.

Founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren, the racing unit is the second oldest active F1 team after Ferrari.

They are also the second most successful in F1 history after Ferrari having won 182 races, 12 Drivers’ Championships and eight Constructors’ Championships with their last Constructors’ crown coming in 1998 and their Drivers’ title 10 years later.

However, with managerial changes in recent times things have been looking up despite being in sixth in the Constructors’ standings with 62 points with Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne at the helm.

They have not exactly delivered as per their promise, and this is something that Brown wants to change.

“It’s not great at all,” Brown said. “It was a disappointing season. We have obviously built a poor race car that has not responded much to the development that we put on the car till the USA GP. Some of the reports we got from the Spain testing were very inaccurate regarding the development.

“Some of the second half of the year was about learning about next year’s car. We are looking forward to this race being over and from Monday we will be looking at 2019. I am confident that the team is working well together and strongly together. We have understood where we made mistakes and we will not repeat these mistakes next year.

After a few tumultuous years, Ron Dennis retired as McLaren team principal in 2009, handing over to long time McLaren employee Martin Whitmarsh. However, at the end of 2013, after the team’s worst season since 2004, Whitmarsh was ousted and McLaren announced in 2013 that they would be using Honda engines from 2015 onwards, replacing Mercedes-Benz. In September 2017, McLaren announced they had agreed on an engine supply with Renault from 2018 to 2020.

McLaren finished in ninth place with a mere 30 points at the end of 2017 making it necessary for the team to go through the rebuilding and recovery process. “I would have preferred to have a good year,” said Brown. “But of course, this year surprised all of us. We have to look at the mirror and get real close to the team and make some changes. So, I do think that long term this period will have benefited the team. Because we have covered some of the area where we had some shortcomings. Ultimately, it is good because we addressed the problems as they should have been.

That said, Brown is pleased with the recovery process. “We are on the road to recovery,” he said. “It is going to feel good before it looks good. Team work and responsibility. All those things we fell short of are now going well. There were low spots this year and McLaren has a history and an era. But we are on the right track and this will ultimately be used to measure the car development.

Much of the rebuilding will be with outgoing Alonso as the fulcrum. “Fernando is extremely intelligent and very experienced,” added Brown. “He loves F1 and loves racing and race tracks, from a go-kart track to Indy car race. We will have a hard time keeping him away from the racetrack. He likes the engineering development side. He is not one of the drivers who says: ‘Give me the wheel and I’ll drive.’ He likes to know what is going on and he goes beyond: ‘Tell me when the car is ready at the racetrack’.”

“We are doing Indianapolis with Alonso to start with. We are also reviewing motorsports forms like endurance racing and other similar formulas. Alonso is certainly not done driving. We are working through to discuss what a long-term relationship could look like.”