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Brown: Norris' McLaren F1 criticism never demotivating

McLaren CEO Zak Brown says Lando Norris' public criticism of its 2023 Formula 1 car only served to motivate the team as it embarked on a recovery programme.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, Lando Norris, McLaren, 2nd position, celebrate in Parc Ferme

McLaren missed its 2023 season targets with a draggy launch car, which led to significant changes within the organisation led by incoming team principal Andrea Stella.

The first fruits of Stella's revamped technical structure were brought to the track in the final races before the summer break, propelling Norris to two podiums while his impressive rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri scored second in the Belgian Grand Prix's Saturday sprint.

But while Norris had been blunt over the MCL60's deficiencies before the introduction of its B-spec, and afterwards still noted it is a "pretty terrible” car to drive in low-speed corners, Brown refutes suggestions that his driver's comments had been at all demotivating for the Woking squad.

"No, we're all motivated," Brown told Motorsport.com as part of an exclusive interview.

"We kind of get happy together, we get grumpy together. So, if he's made a comment, it's consistent, it's motivating.

"We don't get down, we fight hard. I mean, if you look at how poor start the season was, that was hard.

"Meanwhile, underneath the surface we knew we were seeing great development in the wind tunnel, so it was like publicly taking a battering at the start of the year while knowing underneath things were actually going really well.

"And the team handled it really well, so we're motivated."

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Erik Junius

McLaren's slump at the start of 2023, during which the team only made sporadic top-10 appearances and scored points in just three of the first eight races, was still a far cry from its 2017 nadir, when it wrestled with uncompetitive Honda power units.

Brown did recognise during the 2022 campaign that something had to change to prevent the team from stagnating around the middle of the pack. However, it was already too late to right the ship before the start of 2023, with McLaren admitting at its season launch that it was behind the curve on where it needed to be.

"It never went that far. 2017 was here [points to the floor] and 2021 about there [somewhere in the middle]," Brown added.

"We never got back down there. We just hit a speed bump and I felt it last year. These are things that I recognised the second half of last year.

"I had some conversations internally about why we're losing momentum, we're stagnant, which in Formula 1 meant we're going backwards.

"It would have been pointless to talk up the launch, knowing what we were going to see 30 days later, so we were just transparent because our data said we were not where we need to be.

"We knew changes were in the works, and then data was telling us things were going to start looking up in Austria and Silverstone and they have.

"So. that's given us a lot of confidence that what we're seeing in data is correlating to the track, whether that's good data or bad data."

McLaren's resurgence has lifted it to a comfortable fifth in the standings heading into the second half of the season, having been able to challenge the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin over the past four race weekends.

The team is prioritising the development of a low-drag wing to be more competitive at Monza after struggling for top speed at Spa.

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