‘McLaren Will Blow Mercedes Again’: Zak Brown’s Gamble Against Toto Wolff to Win Championships Lauded by F1 Expert

Published 12/04/2023, 12:03 PM EST

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McLaren has recently made a daring move akin to its rich history of audacious decisions. The Woking-based team has cemented its commitment to Formula 1 by extending its partnership with Mercedes until 2030. This strategic move, making them the first customer team to secure the new Mercedes power unit for the next era starting in 2026, has raised some eyebrows in the F1 paddock. The stakes are high, and McLaren, under the leadership of Team Principal Andrea Stella and CEO Zak Brown, is ready to take on the giants of the sport.

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McLaren’s journey with Mercedes dates back to 1995. And after a brief hiatus, the partnership was rekindled in 2021. The team’s loyalty to the German powerhouse has not weakened, standing in stark contrast to the recent shift by Aston Martin to Honda engines in 2026. Toto Wolff, Team Principal at Mercedes, recognizes the significance of strong collaborations with customer teams. He considers them cornerstones of their motorsport strategy.

Zak Brown made the right call to continue with Mercedes engines

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McLaren’s confidence in Mercedes stems from their recent successes on the track. The team secured a memorable victory at the Temple of Speed in Monza, Italy, in 2021 and clinched 15 podium finishes over the last three seasons. Zak Brown emphasized that extending the partnership reflects the team’s confidence in Mercedes’ powertrains and their strategic direction for the future.

The flame around McLaren’s decision intensified after F1 expert Peter Windsor weighed in during a recent livestream. Windsor believes McLaren can outshine Mercedes in the upcoming seasons. Answering the question of the importance of having a works engine in the modern-day F1, Windsor explained, “I don’t think it is as important as before, no. Because they’re templated engines, they’re all homologated. The customer engine is as good as the factory engine. Let’s look at 2023 for that. So, I think Zak’s done exactly the right thing there.”

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“I mean, it’s a big challenge for Mercedes, isn’t it? Also, maybe that’s why Toto’s done it, you know. To try and put the wind-up everybody because, if they carry on as they are, McLaren is going to blow them away again. So, I mean, he will say, ‘Oh, they weren’t blown away because of the Constructors’ Championship.’ But I would say McLaren had a better car, definitely, [in the] second half of the year than Mercedes, even though they’re a customer engine. But I don’t think there’s much drama about being a customer now.”

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With McLaren making huge strides in the second half of the 2023 season, can it take on Red Bull in 2024?

McLaren is likely to be the closest team to Red Bull in 2024

The 2023 season witnessed McLaren’s remarkable progress. Starting the season near the back of the pack, the team surged ahead after its upgrade package in Austria, surpassing all teams except Red Bull in terms of raw pace. McLaren’s unique development path was pivotal to their success in the latter half of the season. The team’s meticulous climb up the competitive ladder throughout 2023 showcased a commitment to strategic choices paying off. The key now is to carry this momentum into the 2024 season.

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Looking ahead, challenging Red Bull regularly will be no small feat. McLaren must address crucial areas, particularly tire management, where they lag behind Red Bull. Although the smaller gap we saw in Qatar was influenced by unusual conditions, McLaren remains, as of now, the only team capable of disrupting Red Bull’s dominance in 2024.

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One factor favoring McLaren is the aerodynamic testing restrictions. Heading into 2024, McLaren finds itself in an advantageous position with more wind tunnel time than their rivals. If the team maintains its current trajectory, it could be the tough competition Red Bull didn’t see coming.

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Watch This Story | Is Oscar Piastri Already Justifying His Talent By Performing Better Than Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren?

Do you think McLaren will be able to optimize their package enough over the winter break to come out all guns blazing at the season opener in Bahrain next year? Share your thoughts and predictions with us in the comments.

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Written by:

Veerendra Vikram Singh

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Edited by:

Aditi Krishnan

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