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It’s a difficult pill to swallow when you’re not able to deliver on the promises you made. Such was the situation of Zak Brown in 2023 when McLaren failed to meet its development targets with the MCL60. The car that looked visibly difficult to drive during pre-season testing carried over its weaknesses through to the first half of the season. To put things into perspective, Lando Norris finished the season opener in Bahrain 2 laps down on the leader. And Christian Horner didn’t shy away from rubbing salt on their wounds. In the freshly released 6th season of Drive To Survive, Horner mocked Zak Brown for talking a big game.

Before the start of the 2023 season, McLaren set their sights on securing 4th in the Constructors’ Championship, a goal that would look far-fetched once they hit the ground running. By the time the F1 circus reached Miami, they were tied in 5th with Alpine, but that was only due to the chaotic race in Australia (which had the most red flags ever in an F1 race; 3) that helped them secure 6th and 8th in the race.

Christian Horner poked fun at Brown’s unrealistic goals

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McLaren brought an upgrade package in Baku, which initially hinted at a slight turnaround with improved qualifying and race pace. However, the very next race in Miami proved to be a rude reality check. Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finished in 17th and 19th positions respectively, after failing to get out of the first round of qualifying on Saturday.

Team Principal Andrea Stella highlighted a concerning trend when asked about the team’s performance dip after the race. He singled out the car’s struggle with low-grip conditions as a significant factor. Stella explained that when grip levels were high, the McLarens were a bit more competitive. However, it was the off-brakes and off-throttle behavior in low-grip situations that caused them problems.

In the 3rd episode of the latest season of Drive To Survive, Christian Horner spoke about the situation at McLaren when they were struggling. He said, “I think Zak’s under pressure. Inevitably, Formula 1 is a pressure business. If you’re not delivering, you’re always going to be under pressure. He’s been talking a big game, and then when you don’t deliver and you get found out, that’s embarrassing, and it hurts.

READ MORE: Zak Brown: Christian Horner’s “Extremely Serious” Investigation Bad for F1

Amidst all the struggles and disappointments, McLaren finally managed to turn their season around with a major upgrade mid-season that shot them up the competitive ladder and close to Red Bull.

Zak Brown did achieve his P4 constructor’s target in 2023

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When McLaren brought an update package in Austria, it was called one of the biggest turnarounds in the history of the sport. A team struggling to make it to Q3 on Saturdays suddenly started fighting for regular podiums on Sundays, even winning a Sprint race with Oscar Piastri in Qatar. Zak Brown credited team principal Andrea Stella for this magical turnaround. One of Stella’s initial major moves in 2023 was to restructure McLaren’s technical departments.

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At the end of the 2023 season, Stella emphasized the significance of rebuilding the aero department under the leadership of Peter Prodromou. This, according to Stella, enabled McLaren to introduce a series of mid-season upgrades, which played a pivotal role in their turnaround. The technical restructuring was a fundamental enabler, Stella told Motorsport.com. “…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, he added.

Can McLaren capitalize on its momentum and take the fight to Red Bull in 2024? Share your insights in the comments down below.

Written by

Veerendra Vikram Singh

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Veerendra Singh is a Motorsport writer at EssentiallySports who specializes in F1 coverage. Having followed the sport for more than 12 years, Veerendra excels in covering trend-setting articles and has covered Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff, and Charles Leclerc extensively during the 2023 F1 season. His Dale Earnhardt Jr post regarding the North Wilkesboro Speedway was shared by Save The Speedway Twitter account.
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Edited by

Akash Pandhare