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Formula 1 Canadian GP

McLaren expects "competitive ideas" from F1 technical leadership overhaul

McLaren has replicated Formula 1 rival Red Bull with the radical overhaul of its technical division that it hopes will generate more "competitive ideas", according to team principal Andrea Stella.

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in the team principals Press Conference

Following the winter departure of team boss Andreas Seidl, who moved to become CEO at Sauber, Stella and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown completed a major review of the heritage outfit’s leadership structure.

This led to the immediate exit of executive technical director James Key, who has since been signed by Seidl. He was replaced by a three-pronged system to cover aerodynamics, car concept and performance plus engineering and design.

McLaren promoted Peter Prodromou to lead the aerodynamic division while David Sanchez was poached from Ferrari to head up car concept and performance. 

Initially, Neil Houldey was elevated to oversee engineering and design before Red Bull chief engineering officer Rob Marshall became available. McLaren moved quickly to appoint Marshall, while Houldey has now moved to a deputy position.

The complex structure more closely resembles Red Bull, reckons Stella. The defending champion’s technical team is led by Adrian Newey, with Pierre Wache, Paul Monaghan and Ben Waterhouse.

Stella says McLaren was not lacking experience or clear leadership with its former setup but has now sought to bring more competing ideas to the table to help the climb the standings.

Asked by Autosport to explain the revamp, the Italian said: “I think this configuration is strong, because it's not like about who makes decisions, but it's much more about how can we generate competitive ideas to bring to the table.

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, the Red Bull trophy delegate and Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, 3rd position, on the podium

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, the Red Bull trophy delegate and Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, 3rd position, on the podium

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“What McLaren has been missing is not who makes decisions. It was more about, can we bring to the table competitive ideas to make a quick car. That's where we have struggled. We think this organisation addresses this.

“Ultimately, this organisation is not dissimilar from a conceptual point of view from what happens in other teams. It pretty much is the way how Red Bull operates, for instance.”

McLaren copped flak previously for what was perceived to be an overly complex management structure during a period of being uncompetitive.

For the 2015 season and the rekindling of McLaren's engine partnership with Honda, ex-team principal Eric Boullier oversaw another three-way technical team.

Tim Goss (technical), Matt Morris (engineering) and Prodromou (aerodynamics) worked alongside one another for the MP4/30 that took the team to ninth in the championship.

But former engineer Stella says this latest arrangement has been devised to enable the leaders in each department to gel.

He said: “In order to get the organisation to work efficiently, I think the most important thing is: what technical functions do you need to cover in modern Formula 1? For me, this is aerodynamics, performance and concept.

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“We talk about 2026 [new engine regulations]: who's going to look at 2026 and start to figure out, 'How should the car look like, as a whole?', which is performance and concept.

“Then you need to make all this become real, which is engineering and design.

“So, that's the approach we have adopted at McLaren, which is quite conceptual as an approach: aerodynamics, performance and concept, engineering and design.

“Then we decided we want to pick the best leader in each of these areas.”

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