McLaren exceeded expectations last season, but can it do even better in 2022?
Buoyed by a new customer engine deal with Mercedes-AMG that reignited a title-winning partnership, the team battled regularly for podiums, and Daniel Ricciardo led home Lando Norris for a sensational one-two in the Italian Grand Prix, ending a team-record barren run of 170 races. As such, it finished the year fourth.
Expectations are consequently high for 2022, especially with the team having long ago put a major development focus on the new technical regulations for this season. But there are no guarantees in F1. Remember Pastor Maldonado? The mercurial Venezuelan’s stunning win in the 2012 Spanish GP ended a record winless run of 130 races for Williams, and along with the team’s new customer engine deal with Renault (resuming a title-winning partnership), it seemed like the spark for a revival. Yet the team hasn’t won again since.
Now, Ricciardo is much better than Maldonado, but the truth is that progress in F1 isn’t always linear and can’t be measured by slightly fortuitous wins. So while he is optimistic, and with the team showing good form in pre-season testing, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown is keeping expectations in check.
It’s a mantra that Brown has been pushing since he took over the position in 2016, during the team’s nadir with uncompetitive and unreliable Honda engines. “My first year was the worst year in the history of McLaren on track,” he says.
His task since then has been to transform the culture and working methods of the storied team to the modern era of F1. He says his role has largely been to put the right people in place, such as team principal Andreas Seidl.
Brown says: “I really don’t run a racing team; I run a racing business. I’ve got experts to run the team. The trick is to get the best people you can, have an honest relationship with them, set goals and objectives and give good feedback.”
So while last season’s race win was very nice, the key to sustained success is continuing to progress.
“Whoever is the fastest, we want to continue to get closer to them,” says Brown of McLaren’s 2022 goals. “That’s our ultimate measurement: are we truly closing the gap to the front? We want to be running at the front on a regular basis in a couple of years, so the goal has got to be to continue to get more competitive every year.”