Matt Morris, Engineering Director Q&A
Matt Morris joined McLaren as its engineering director in September 2013 – a smidgen over a year ago.
Since then, Matt has been involved in restructuring McLaren Racing, pushing its strengths while also supplying the foundations to bolster those areas that needed additional work.
One year into the job, he tells www.mclaren.com about those first 12 months, and what’s to come:
Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do at McLaren?
“I joined McLaren one year ago as engineering director, following 17 years in Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship at Cosworth, Williams and, most recently, Sauber. The role itself means I’m responsible for the whole engineering team, which covers how the team is made up, how it operates, and, most importantly, how it delivers performance.”
What does McLaren mean to you?
“In my mind, McLaren has always stood for excellence and domination – unfortunately, however, we aren’t quite achieving those ambitions at the moment, but we’re working to get there.”
Yes, 2013 and 2014 have not been the easiest of seasons for McLaren – can you explain what’s happened, and what’s changed as a result?
“Clearly, the past two seasons have been tough: we’ll admit that we’ve under-performed. There’s no single reason for that, but I think we needed to remind ourselves that we’re a racing team and not an engineering consultancy. We need to be quick and agile, and maybe take a few risks here and there. F1 is like warfare – you need to be on the attack all the time. If you sit back and relax, you’ll lose.”
From a technical perspective, what’s the forecast for the rest of 2014?
“Our technical plan for the rest of the season is to continue developing the MP4-29. We have updates planned, potentially, right up to the last race.”
There’s been a lot of talk of restructuring, and of putting in place an organisation that’s ready for the future. Is that structure now in place? Will there be further changes?
“Yes, we’ve been working hard over the past year to bring in some new people, allow a few people to move on, and change the way the engineering team is structured. With the valuable input of Jonathan [Neale, Chief Operating Officer and acting Chief Executive Officer] and Eric [Boullier, Racing Director], that plan is now almost complete. However, we do still have a few more people in the incoming and outgoing pipelines, which is something that always happens when you want to stay fresh. We now need to give our new people and structures some time to develop and mature, but we’re already seeing some of those changes coming to fruition as we continue to add performance to the car.”
What’s the most important priority over the next six months as McLaren prepares for the 2015 season?
“We need to continue to catch up with our competitors as quickly as possible. We also need to ensure that our new 2015 power unit integrates into the MP4-30 as seamlessly as possible, and that we continue to develop our already strong relationship with our new engine partner.”
And, finally, what’s the feeling within the organisation right now as we head towards 2015?
“I think the feeling within the team is a mix of great excitement and measured concern. We’re making some bold new moves, which is what was required, but such things always take time, and we’re still a long way behind where we need to be as McLaren. But we’re definitely moving forwards – that’s the most important thing.”