McLaren F1: “Empowerment and enthusiasm are the foundation of how we deal with people”

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Photo Credit: McLaren Racing

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella spoke about the restructuring of the aerodynamic department carried out by the Woking team, underlining how fundamental it was to the team’s growth during the 2023 season.

McLaren’s 2023 season was very much a tale of two halves. On the one hand, there was a really bad start, with a slow MCL60 and constantly fighting just to get out of Q1. On the other hand, however, there is the second half of the championship, growing and characterised by a revised car, developed and capable of constantly fighting for pole positions and podiums, and it allowed the English team to catch and pass Aston Martin despite a deficit of over 100 points at one stage.

In the end, a positive season for the men and women directed by Andrea Stella who, having taken over last winter from Andreas Seidl, (who left to manage Audi’s entry into F1 in 2026 with Sauber), was immediately able to impose a change to the team and make it grow from various points of view. Growth is possible thanks to important decisions, first of all, the restructuring of the technical departments, creating clear lines of command and clear responsibilities. James Key was out the door.

Departments that have been entrusted to top-level engineers, although two of them [Rob Marshall and David Sanchez] are still in a “gardening period” for another three weeks, after having left their respective roles in the teams in which they were previously employed and which, according to Stella, will be able to guarantee a clear strengthening of the entire structure and guaranteed clear responsibilities. First of all, the Italian team principal entrusted the aerodynamic department to Peter Prodromou: a decisive move that allowed McLaren to quickly develop the MCL60 and overtake Aston Martin in the race for fourth place in the constructors’ standings.

“The technical restructuring was a fundamental enabler. The restructuring itself includes people that actually haven’t started yet.

“If we talk about the new technical configuration, which includes three technical directors, two of them haven’t started yet. It was Peter Prodromou in charge of aero, David Sanchez in charge of performance and concepts, Rob Marshall in charge of engineering and design.

“Effectively, this structure has given clarity on the responsibilities and has allowed also – and it was essential in the short term – to restructure the aerodynamic department, putting Peter Prodromou in charge, supporting Giuseppe Pesce, these guys have been absolutely instrumental in setting the new direction for the design of the car from an aerodynamic point of view.”

High-level technicians who, like Peter Prodromou, are already in McLaren or who, like Rob Marshall from Red Bull and David Sanchez from Ferrari, will join the team in January, at the end of their gardening period. Big-name engineers will also be joined by another dozen “junior” hires.

Hires which, according to Andrea Stella, will improve an already high-level staff present in Woking, capable of achieving (in 2023) nine podiums with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, and a victory in the sprint race in Qatar, again with the Australian. High-level staff who, in 2024, will also be able to benefit from a new wind tunnel, put into operation only at the end of the summer, and used for the development of the 2024 project.

“This has been the enabler to use the talent that was already available at McLaren, because the people that physically design the geometries are the same people.

“But unleashing their talent by giving clear direction, making clear objectives, and also trying to make sure that empowerment and enthusiasm are the foundation of how we deal with people. This has been instrumental. And that’s also how we are trying to get into the future.”