Next year McLaren are spreading their wings beyond Formula 1 as they begin an era in which they return to Indycar next year and in 2021 they are looking likely to embark on a FIA World Endurance Championship programme within the much-anticipated Hypercar rules.
Exciting projects, but many in the paddock question if the Woking outfit have not bitten off more they can chew, in the aftermath of the company’s worst PR nightmare when they failed to qualify Fernando Alonso for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
The post-mortem of the month of their Brickyard project revealed a slew of bad decisions and a catalogue of embarrassing failings that can only be put down to laissez-faire management style that was viciously exposed as ineffective and naive.
But in what is a case of ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’ McLaren recently revealed plans for their next Indycar foray with Arrow McLaren Racing SP starting next year.
McLaren boss Zak Brown is adamant that their F1 programme would not be affected: “Number one on the checklist when deciding when or if we go IndyCar racing is that it cannot be a distraction from Formula 1.
“I wouldn’t have brought IndyCar forward if I didn’t feel the two could run in parallel and complement each other commercially but have zero distractions to each other’s program from an on-track point of view.
“If this was 2018, I don’t think it would have been something I even brought forward because I would have felt we weren’t ready to take on another project.”
With WEC set to embrace Hypercar rules for the premier sportscar/endurance series from 2021 and beyond, it makes sense for a sportscar manufacturer like McLaren to be involved in the series which includes the legendary and high-profile Le Mans 24-Hours race on the calendar.
Brown himself, is no stranger to prototype and endurance racing as a driver and a team owner. He is a partner in the United Autosports which declare on their website “the UK’s fastest-growing motorsport team” and have frontrunners in numerous sportscar and tintop series’ around the globe.
Thus he is fully aware of the commitment needed to run an effective WEC effort, “Le Mans is something much like Indy that we want to go and do and we think it’s great for our automotive business, but there’s a longer lead time to get into design and manufacture the cars.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s on the backburner. It just moves at a slower pace because it’s more complicated, in that we need to align it with our automotive business.”
Notably, Brown admitted that a decision to expand into the WEC depends on where F1 rule-makers and stakeholders intend taking the sport beyond 2020, “The cost cap, we really need to take that into consideration when we get into resource allocation for the future. We really need to know what the future of Formula 1 looks like to finish our analysis of a potential WEC program.”
Meanwhile, the McLaren CEO has ruled himself of taking over from F1 chief Chase Carey when he decides to retire. A job Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has been linked to.
But Brown is committed to the challenge of reviving McLaren and right now would not consider F1’s top job, “I’m thoroughly enjoying [McLaren] and I’m now starting to take a few steps forward, which is only making me more hungry to keep pushing. I like it. I’m enjoying it. Ask me in five or ten years, but right now there is nothing I want more than to get McLaren back to winning.”
As for Carey’s replacement, Brown said, “What does the whole management team look like? I don’t think anyone has the skillset to do everything that needs to be done in F1. It’s more about the team they build around them.”
Big Question: Will Indycar distract from McLaren’s F1 effort?