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‘Whatever it takes’ – Andrea lays out his vision for McLAREN F1

Our Team Principal on overcoming our short-term issues and implementing his long-term vision

Read time: 13.4 mins

It’s been just over three months since Andrea Stella took over as Team Principal, and it would be safe to assume they’re amongst his busiest in motorsport so far. No two seconds have been unaccounted for, and not one has been wasted.

Having worked within the company since 2015 - when he joined from Ferrari - Andrea started his new role as Team Principal with a solid understanding of the business and what was needed.

Although he’s been shaping the exact details of his long-term vision over the past three months, Andrea’s ideology was clear from day one. And he’s currently implementing that strategy, with a focus on being a “performance-led” team, in which people can make the difference.

During the break between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, we sat down with Andrea to discuss all of the above, including the difficult season opener and the work going on behind the scenes to rectify the issues, but also on the bigger picture and how he sees the team shaping up in the future.

Bahrain frustrations

The most hotly debated subject from the season opener in Bahrain was the reliability issues that prematurely ended Oscar’s debut and derailed Lando’s chance of scoring any points.

Although we couldn’t have anticipated the problems that came our way in the opener, the causes were quickly recognised, and fixes are being worked on, with Andrea explaining to us that three key factors have been established.

“The first one on Lando’s car was power unit related,” he begins. “It wasn’t necessarily visible in anything other than the outcome, but it was effectively because of the energy deployment stopping, which was caused by a software problem. This proved costly for Lando, as it caused him to lose two positions.

“The second problem was that the pneumatic pressure was starting to drop, just after the start of the race, with a linear trend. There's a limit at which you need to refill the pneumatic bottle and re-establish the pressure, and this meant that we needed to refill the pneumatic bottle every 10 or 11 laps.

“The final issue from a reliability point of view was an electrical problem on the steering column harness, which meant the steering wheel wasn't working properly on Oscar's car, and he needed to retire.”

Bahrain frustrations

All three issues are being worked on as a “matter of priority” as we look to understand what happened in greater detail and apply fixes.

“We couldn’t have anticipated a risk in these areas,” Andrea continues. “But they are understood and being addressed. We’ll do our best to work with Mercedes HPP to avoid a repeat.

“Some of them were a surprise, and we weren’t entirely sure why they happened at that exact time in Bahrain, but we’re working to validate this as we speak, and we’re confident enough that the short-term mitigations should be sufficient.”

Short term positives

There was one more surprise, but it was a positive one.

The performance of the MCL60 in its launch specification meant that we weren’t expecting to fight at the front of the field, but it proved to have better pace than was expected in the race. Not groundbreakingly faster, but more than had been initially predicted. Although the team are very aware that improvements are required, even if Bahrain doesn’t necessarily suit the car's strengths.

“With Lando, we were on course to score a few points, which is encouraging considering the work we know we need to do with the performance of the car,” Andrea says. “Oscar was also doing very well on his debut – he was moving forwards and could have been in contention for points.


“At a track like Bahrain where tyre degradation is especially high, if you can reduce degradation by a small percentage compared to another car, then your relative competitiveness after, let’s say 10 laps, becomes better than your underlying competitiveness, and I think our degradation was competitive.”

That leaves the team with a clear picture of where we stand. It will vary from track to track, but essentially: “With the current level of competitiveness of our car, if we do a good job, we have the opportunity to be in the points. If we don’t, then we’re outside.” Although the top four teams remain slightly out of reach right now, Andrea is confident that we can still fight back to compete at the top of the midfield.

Bouncing back

The team are confident in the new direction we’ve taken with car development and felt it necessary not to rush the changes, which will be delivered through upgrade packages throughout the season. The result in Bahrain was never going to affect those plans.

Andrea expects some components to arrive in time for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with more following in subsequent rounds.

“Good development work has happened in background at the factory, with the whole team working flat out, and we see weekly enhancements of the performance associated with new components,” he says. “We are happy with the rate of development. As always, the challenge is to retain this steep rate of development. We learned from the issues we suffered last year: we reviewed them, and this will help to sustain development.

Wind tunnel

“The objective is to make a quicker car in qualifying and the race, and to improve our level of tyre degradation. We want to out-develop our competitors and establish ourselves at the top of the midfield in the short term.

“Then, towards the end of the season, we want to start to challenge that next group. If we maximise our potential through development, we think this is a realistic target for the year. We do this through setting clear objectives for the team and the various working groups, and with efficiency and teamwork.”

Whatever it takes

As expected, Andrea’s presence around the factory has been positively felt since his promotion. The Italian’s principles directly align with CEO Zak Brown’s, and he had long been seen as a future Team Principal.

His philosophies come from more than two decades of working in F1, which includes his time at Ferrari, where he helped to deliver four world championships and 58 wins for his side of the garage, working with Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen, and Fernando Alonso.

Clear and regular communication on our progress is provided to the company, through written and in-person debriefs, ensuring that everyone is taken on this journey as one racing family. The internal ethos has been delivered as “whatever it takes”, which translates more technically to “out-developing competitors within a vision of a completely performance-led organisation.”

Andrea is speaking from his office at the MTC, but it is rare that he is at his desk for long. The Italian has immersed himself in every area as he works to define a “clear vision and mission” for McLaren, starting with an improved infrastructure.

Fernando Alonso

“The infrastructural improvements and the foundation of the team we are working on will start to pay off in the short term, but what's most important is that it pays off in the medium and long term,” Andrea says.

In part, the infrastructure relates to better hardware and technologies, such as the much-talked-about wind tunnel, which will replace the facility we rent from Toyota in Cologne, Germany. There is also the new and improved simulator, which will take the place of the one currently at the MTC.

These are the headline-grabbing additions, but they are far from the only physical enhancements being installed.

Asked what we can expect, Andrea says: “The new wind tunnel is for aerodynamic development, and the new simulator is for performance assessment and development, but there will also be an entirely new composite manufacturing facility that will improve our capacity to build a car quickly and efficiently. And we have also invested in machines for metal manufacturing and some other aspects of manufacturing and bench testing.”

Increasing the horsepower

For all of the hardware additions, the single most crucial element of the infrastructure upgrades is the people within our team: from those making the decisions and implementing the day-to-day vision, to those working the machines, designing the car and physically putting it together or racing it. It encompasses everyone working to support the team, they’re all a part of a large and complex organisation where everyone plays a fundamental role.

Andrea explains: “The metaphor I use is: ‘We need to increase the horsepower of our team." Horsepower is associated with the number of people, the talent and the expertise. We want the size of our team to be competitive against top teams. We also want to develop the talent and the expertise within our team through training and recruitment.

“We want to establish high standards in the way we do things at McLaren. I compare it to staying at a five-star luxury hotel. You might go and stay at a four-star hotel and think, ‘wow, this hotel is fantastic’, but then you go and stay at a five-star hotel and come away saying, ‘wow, I didn’t realise you could take another step up.’

“We are working on taking this next step up. It’s about establishing high standards and creating a performance-led mindset. In some areas, it will happen through continued incremental gains, in others, by accelerating the rate of development, and in some other places, we need to make a leap forwards.”

Lando and Oscar on stage

Through these improvements and the implementation of our long-term plan, we can deliver Lando and Oscar the machinery they need to challenge at the sharp end and win races in papaya. This is ambition is shared by everyone in the McLaren Formula 1 team, “at the factory, at the track, with the partners supporting the business, with our incredible fans and ultimately with our drivers.”

Andrea continues: “Lando is one of the best drivers on the grid, and he’s committed to McLaren long-term. We appreciate his trust and are working extremely hard to give him the car that puts him close to scoring podiums and winning races because we know he will immediately do the job thanks to his top and unique race craft.

“We are extremely pleased with Oscar’s development so far. He gets better with every session, showing great awareness while driving, and the capacity to go into the next race and cash-in on the car’s potential: this is a definition of talent. We’re also extremely pleased with his integration into the team and his attitude. So far, he has confirmed that he will be a strong asset in the future.”