McLaren CEO Zak Brown is aiming to be in contention for the Formula 1 Championship by 2024, with new infrastructure set to come into play.
McLaren have improved in leaps and bounds since the dark days of Honda. Struggling to get the performance out of a “GP2” engine, as labelled by Fernando Alonso, as well as a chassis that simply wasn’t up to scratch.
The arrival of CEO Zak Brown, accompanied with Team Principal Andreas Seidl, has seen the pair point McLaren back in the right direction. Back towards the Formula 1 Championship winning team they are renowned for.
Failing to maintain an aging facility and bring in adequate resources and income under the previous regime had left McLaren struggling to compete with a large swathe of the F1 field. More often than not finding themselves at the back of the pack.
The switch from Honda to Renault engines was the first step in helping restore the team’s competitive nature. A further switch to the current Mercedes power unit has increased that competiveness yet again. Along with the continued development and improvement of their cars over the last several seasons.
Upon their appointment, Brown and Seidl were quick to identity key areas that needed vital improvement at their Woking headquarters. One such area was the build of a wind tunnel, allowing the team to move away from the use of the Toyota owned facility.
Aiming to contend with the top teams for the World Championship by 2024, Brown is confident the addition of the wind tunnel will aid McLaren in their future venture.
“I think it’s always dangerous to pick a point in time in which you should be going for it,” Brown said. “What I will say is we will have caught up by 2024 with all of our infrastructure, most specifically the wind tunnel.
“I think we’ll have no excuses come the 2024 season, and would like to think that by that point, the sport is going to be so competitive that there’ll be a variety of teams fighting for the championship, and I like to think we’d be one of them.”
The improvement McLaren have shown hasn’t gone unnoticed. From finishing ninth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2017, to securing third place and ‘best of the rest’ in 2020. The team is in a fight with a resurgent Ferrari in 2021 to retain their third place position. With the two old rivals currently tied on 163 points.
The introduction of new regulations and further tightening of the cost cap for 2022 is hoped to provide for closer racing across the field. With the top teams of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari no longer able to outspend their competitors by double or triple the amount.
The all-new car for 2022 with a reduced aerodynamic capability, switching to a more ground effects approach, should also make for easier overtaking, with more exciting racing the end result.
But while 2022 may provide McLaren with the ability to be somewhat more competitive with the top teams, it won’t be until 2024 that they are truly in the right position to contend for the title.
“We’ve gone ninth, sixth, fourth, third. And here we are in third. I think it gets tougher as you get closer to the front, so I don’t think it’s going to be two, one,” Brown continued. “That would be nice, but I don’t think that’ll happen.
“While we now have the annual resources to compete at the same level as everyone else, we are behind on our infrastructure, and while we’ve let loose the investment, it’s simply going to take time, most notably the wind tunnel.
“Given how important that is, we can’t make up that lost time, we’re writing the cheques for it, but it’s going to take a couple of years to finish the wind tunnel.
“We have other CapEx [capital expenses] that you’ll start to see, everything from our brand centre, you saw we were redoing that to be more sustainable and aligned with the future and more efficient, and we have other stuff that you’ll see later this year.
“But we really won’t be caught up on our infrastructure until the 2024 car comes out. Until then we will be doing the best we can with the equipment that we have, but I think until we get caught up, it will be difficult to think that we could beat those guys in a straight fight.”