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Ben Hunt: Brown's Ferrari F1 bromance and the importance of fun

McLaren's revival and its duel with Ferrari has been a huge breath of fresh air for Formula 1 this season. It has also created a surprising bromance.

Press Conference
Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, and Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown and his friendship with Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur has become noticeable to the point they are revelling in each other's successes.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris of McLaren are separated by just seven points in the drivers' championship as they hunt down leader Max Verstappen.

It is a unique feel-good story between two of motorsport's oldest and most competitive teams but one which Brown says stems from the fact he cannot trust other team principals in the Formula 1 paddock to race as cleanly.

It comes after Vasseur was caught up in celebrating Norris's first Formula 1 victory at the Miami Grand Prix.

The 56-year-old lined up with a throng of photographers looking to capture the team's celebratory photo.

Brown tossed Vasseur a McLaren cap, which he wore backwards, before opening a bottle of champagne and soaking the McLaren team members with it.

Both Brown and Vasseur have revelled in seeing their respective drivers win in recent races. Last week, Brown got a tattoo of the Miami circuit layout to act as a permanent reminder to Norris' win, while Vasseur dived into Port Hercules in Monte Carlo to toast Charles Leclerc's home victory.

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari, stops by to congratulate Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, the McLaren team on victory

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari, stops by to congratulate Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, the McLaren team on victory

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The developing bond between the duo, whose teams are separated by 40 points in the constructors' championship, stands out for Brown, who says it is down to them sharing the same "ethical boundaries".

"Fred is doing a great job," he tells Autosport. "I wish, and you can do it with some principals more than others, we're going to fight hard on and off the track but we are going to race each other cleanly.

"I can't say that about half the field. And some are really bad...

"It is natural what happened between Fred and I [in Miami], when he came over and I threw him the hat. That is what sport should be about - to be able to fight each other hard on the track and then shake each other's hand once it is all said and done.

"It is a much more fun way to go racing, so I am having fun.

"I figured out that you have to race people the way they race you. I prefer to race cleanly but unfortunately, not all my competitors race cleanly.

"There are some in the pitlane that unfortunately the only way to race them, is race them the way they race.

Laurent Mekies, Team Principal, RB F1 Team, Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Laurent Mekies, Team Principal, RB F1 Team, Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"It is a shame because that is not naturally the person I am or the way I would like to go racing, but they will push you off the track if you don't push them off the track first.

"I much more enjoy racing Fred because it is much more enjoyable to have the camaraderie and know that there are some ethical boundaries."

It is difficult to identify the source of Brown's ire but it is evident there have been a number of shots fired in Red Bull's direction. Brown had been vocal on the handling of its own investigation into team principal Christian Horner.

He had also voiced his displeasure over the closeness between Red Bull and its sister team RB.

"I don't think they are cheating," Brown told Autosport in February. "But the rules aren't fit for purpose. There's not another major sport that I know of where you can own two teams that compete.

"It's not allowed in any other sport, because of political influence, and player trading. It's for all the reasons you can think of."

Another suggestion could be the scrutiny his team is now receiving following the uptick in results, but he rules out any suspicion of the integrity of his opposition.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20, Daniel Ricciardo, RB F1 Team VCARB 01

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20, Daniel Ricciardo, RB F1 Team VCARB 01

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

When asked directly if he's any suspicions about the legality of his rivals' cars, Brown said: "No, I am comfortable. Do I think all teams push the boundaries? I think that is the DNA of Formula 1.

"There is a difference between cheating, which we've seen with Ferrari and the power unit pre-Fred - that was unacceptable.

"Then there is cleverness around flexwings and for me, that is what Formula 1 is about.

"So the engineers who think that if it doesn't say I can't do it means I can do it, I think that is part of what makes Formula 1."

McLaren is on an upward trajectory that comes from the heart of the team, but is facilitated by the low-maintenance yet highly effective driver pairing of Norris and Oscar Piastri, who are separated themselves by 50 points in the championship.

For the time being, the duo's relationship remains cordial but Brown knows that as McLaren improve, it will draw the team-mates into completion with each other, which will ultimately create tensions.

Fortunately, he says he has the mechanisms to spot and resolve any driver flare-ups when they do inevitably happen.

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team, Oscar Piastri, McLaren F1 Team, Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, the McLaren team celebrate

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team, Oscar Piastri, McLaren F1 Team, Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, the McLaren team celebrate

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

He added: "We have a great driver line-up. They are both very genuine, massively competitive but race each other cleanly.

"But you have seen team-mates who don't race each other cleanly. When, and not if they tangle at some point, there is mutual respect and when that happens, we will sit down and talk it through and never let it elevate and learn from it.

"I am not on the inside in other teams but we have seen tensions brewing and I am not sure team bosses step in early enough.

"That is one of the strengths of mine, and I have plenty of weaknesses, but it is a strength because I have raced and understand the psychology of a driver.

"Fun is something I like to have with the team and that takes tension out of the air, because it is a stressful environment. So part of my role, like when I goof around with the drivers on the grid, is all intended to take the stress out of the system because if you have a bear in the corner, they attack.

"So I try to take a little bit of stressful energy out of the air."

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