“The Overhaul Of The Sporting And Technical Regulations In 2022 Will Mark A New Era In Formula 1”
March 26, 2021
To close out our week leading up to the new Formula 1, we’re delighted to share our final interview of the week with Zak Brown, Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Racing.
McLaren Racing’s last Formula 1 title came 14 years ago, when Lewis Hamilton’s memorable final lap heroics in Brazil saw him become the 2007 World Champion. A handful of years later, Hamilton made his exit and has since established himself as one of the greatest drivers of all time while at Mercedes.
Meanwhile, the team he left behind have experienced a very indifferent patch, having to watch from the sidelines as Red Bull and Mercedes took turns in exerting their dominance over the sport.
“The battle with our competitors is going to be even more intense than last year but we’re ready for the challenge.”
However, in the recent years, the team has started its ascension closer to the front of the grid once again, results have been improving and there appears to be a strong positivity flying around the team, with the addition of Daniel Ricciardo to follow a third-placed finish in the Constructors’ Championship.
Zak Brown is the man who had led this charge since taking over the role of CEO in 2018, and here you can read Zak’s thoughts on what the team has had to overcome in the past year, the team’s next goals and what the incoming rule changes can do for the sport.
Firstly, it’s hard to ignore what was happening at exactly this time a year ago when the start of the season was abruptly halted. So looking back, how would you assess how successfully the team and F1 as a whole has been able to deal with Covid?
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, it was a challenging and unprecedented situation for the world. It’s been a difficult period for our team and the sport. Looking back, the right steps were taken to postpone the start of the season to protect everyone involved in Formula 1.
To be able to go racing in the safest manner possible during a global pandemic is a remarkable achievement. Credit goes to the F1, the FIA, the race promoters and all the teams for doing an outstanding job. Being the first international sport to return and going on to race 17 times across the globe is no easy task under the circumstances of Covid. The whole industry quickly adapted and understood how to work around the issue with frequent testing, social distancing and several other precautions in place.
The situation has made this team stronger and really showed everyone’s resilience and dedication during a challenging time. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel but we’re not out of it just yet. We’ll continue to follow the procedures in place to keep everyone safe as we head into the new season.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in the past 12 months?
I think the biggest challenge over the past 12 months was having to adapt to the ever-evolving situation of Covid. We’ve had to make some difficult decisions to protect our team members and the future of the sport. It’s been a tough year for all but everyone in the team rose to the challenge and I couldn’t be prouder, whether that’s being a part of the VentilatorChallenge UK consortium, returning to racing safely, achieving third in Constructors’ World Championship or balancing the 2020 car with the development of our 2021 car all under Covid safety protocols. We’ve secured new investment from MSP Sports Capital and can be proud of the progress we’ve made so far as we look ahead to the future.
In terms of on the track, you built on 2019 with another positive campaign in 2020, finishing third in the constructors’ championship and adding Daniel Ricciardo, who finished fifth last season, so what do you see as your next goals?
The 2021 season is set to be an exciting year and another challenge as we aim to build on our accomplishments from 2020. We start the season with a new driver line-up, new Mercedes power unit and new investment. Our aim is to continue to close the gap to the front. However, we need to be realistic about what’s possible this season as the battle with our competitors is going to be even more intense than last year but we’re ready for the challenge.
Esports provided a huge boost for F1 during lockdown with the virtual series, so where does that now fit into the team’s commercial outlook?
McLaren has had a long history in esports, being one of the first F1 teams to set up its own esports programme as long ago as 2017. Last year we expanded our global esports programme with two new exciting partnerships with Veloce Esports and the Logitech McLaren G Challenge. The McLaren Shadow esports team continues to compete in the F1 Esports series and several other series. Alongside this we also launched the McLaren Shadow Academy in partnership with Veloce Esports, aimed at developing the world’s most promising talent in the esports community.
It’s become even more apparent that the line between virtual and real racing has been blurred with a direct transference of skills between the two. Now more than ever people everywhere have the ability to access an incredible racing experience that presents new and exciting ways to engage a global fan base.
You also have a driver in Lando who is huge on Esports and has a tremendous following amongst Gen-Z individuals, and Daniel is one of the most popular drivers in F1, so how do you look at this in terms of growing the McLaren fanbase across a range of demographics?
We have the most exciting driver pairing on the grid in Lando and Daniel. Both are formidable racers on-track and great characters off-track, bringing a lot of energy and ambition to the team that will help push us forward.
“I think the overhaul of the sporting and technical regulations in 2022 will mark a new era in Formula 1.”
There’s never been a more exciting time to follow the sport. Our fans are at the centre of everything we do, and we are committed to serving their passion. We serve a strong core fanbase and a growing set of new fans who are more diverse and representative of a new generation of Formula 1 fans. We want to bring every fan closer to the heart of the team and make them feel like a part of our McLaren family.
There are some significant rule changes to be implemented which have been pushed back to the 2022 season to ensure a more even playing field, how do you believe this can benefit the sport going forwards?
I think the overhaul of the sporting and technical regulations in 2022 will mark a new era in Formula 1. All teams on the grid are starting from scratch with a brand-new car which will present a great opportunity for us. Similar to the budget cap that’s been introduced this year, these changes will ensure a more competitive and closely contested sport.
The real benefit is that Formula 1 remains viable for years to come for our people, partners and owners but ultimately the fans, because they are the lifeblood of the sport.