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Zak Brown: ‘We needed to be less Darth Vadar and more Luke Skywalker’

Z

ak Brown is a self-confessed petrolhead well-versed in the history of Formula 1.

Long before he walked into McLaren’s state-of-the-art headquarters responsible for the once great team’s renaissance in November 2016, already he knew of the team’s 182 grand prix victories, 12 drivers’ titles and eight constructors’ crowns.

What he didn’t quite anticipate was that the British manufacturer had yet to experience its nadir; that followed in his first season at the helm as they finished a pitiful ninth, their worst season in living memory.

Fast forward four years to the end of the 2020 campaign, and McLaren finished best of the rest behind Mercedes and Red Bull, a painstaking resurgence which Brown has been central to.

And yet the former Californian native is of the opinion that the team have achieved nothing yet, an unsurprising outlook considering its last F1 win dates back to the 2012 season. And yet there are glimmers the team is on the precipice of edging back towards its heyday.

As for hopes of a race win in 2021, Brown says: “I think circumstances would have to fall our way like it did for Alpha Tauri and Racing Point last season. In unusual circumstances, I’d say we have a chance but to stick it on pole and lead a race, that’s going to be reserved for Mercedes and Red Bull.”

Brown is sitting inside McLaren’s headquarters in the lead-up to his fifth season with the team. In the early days, he admits the situation was “worse than I anticipated” as McLaren continued to go backwards with the Honda engine.

“It felt very painful at the time knowing you don’t have a car that’s going to perform, you know what’s in store every weekend,” he said. “It was frustrating to have a race weekend and not be looking forward to it. Thankfully, that seems like a while ago now. But we’ve only really had two years of being strong so we need to not get carried away.”

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Even in the lows, Brown said he never had a day where he questioned his position or regretted taking up the post.


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