Brown: Clearly McLaren need a title partner

Motorsports / Formula 1: World Championship 2007, GP of USA , 2 Lewis Hamilton (GBR, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes), 1 Fernando Alonso (ESP, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes), *** Local Caption *** +++ www.hoch-zwei.net +++ copyright: HOCH ZWEI / Michael Kunkel +++

McLaren need a title sponsor after years without one, the Formula One team’s new executive director Zak Brown said in an interview with Motorsport Network media group of which he is also non-executive chairman.

“There’s lots of space on the McLaren race car that needs filling with top luxury brands. A title sponsor will help propel you forward,” he said. “We need partners and ultimately a title partner is a critical partner.”

McLaren last had a title sponsor in 2013, when a deal with Vodafone expired. They have also seen prominent partners, such as fashion brand Hugo Boss and watch company TAG Heuer, leave for rival teams.

The team enjoyed long standing partnerships with tobacco companies, first with Phillip Morris when their cars were adorned with the iconic day-glo red and white Marlboro chevron. The sponsorship ran from 1974 until 1996.

The team was sponsored by West, a German cigarette brand owned by Imperial Tobacco, from 1997 until 2005.

The former champions last won a race in 2012 and their partnership with Honda remains some way off the pace after a difficult start in 2015.

Ron Dennis, the shareholder and former team boss who was ousted last week, had refused to drop the rate card for sponsors in recent years.

Brown, whose appointment was announced on Monday, said he needed to settle in before making decisions but indicated it was important to improve the economics of the team.

“Clearly we need a title partner, so we need to become a more attractive proposition to commercial partners,” he said.

The American, who boasts a long record of motorsport involvement and has brought several major sponsors into Formula One, said he was close to Dennis and had “massive admiration” for him.

“I spoke to him recently and as a shareholder he will have a big vested interest in our success,” he added.

Brown praised McLaren’s Racing Director Eric Boullier and the team’s recently-recruited chief executive Jost Capito and said he had known and worked with both men for years.

“From since he joined (from Lotus in 2014), they’ve moved forwards,” he said of Boullier. “Everything I’ve seen, putting aside my friendship, he’s got the results and it looks like we’re going in the right direction. I’m bullish on Eric.

“(Capito) has been a winner in everything I’ve seen him do, I get along with him great and he’s passionate about the brand,” he added.

“So I think we’ve got a lot of the right resources from what I can see. Now it’s about forward progress and coming together as a team.”