McLaren’s hint of a systemic revolution prior to the British Grand Prix is paving the way to an upcoming reel of head-chopping operations. Eric Boullier’s departure got everyone wondering what the company is going to do next to take its beloved racing team back to winning ways.
It is now clear that the engineering and design departments need a thorough makeover, but how long will it take? Apparently McLaren preferred not to set any deadlines or any targets on the short-term, as everyone is perfectly aware that it will be no quick fix. However, the main move is likely to affect the current leadership on the technical side. With 1/3 of the chief technical officers (Tim Goss) excluded from the project in late April, the leadership has been reduced to two figures: Peter Prodromou and Matt Morris.
John Barnard, former McLaren designer brought by Ron Dennis right after his takeover in 1980, recently released his own book ‘The Perfect Car’ and had his say on the Woking-based outfit, detecting and unfolding its main issues.
“I don’t see anyone running it technically now and I haven’t seen that for a few years. They have separate aerodynamic groups working on different parts of the car. If you don’t have a technical leader then what happens is all the different areas say: ‘It’s not my problem, it’s their problem.’ This is what happens with organisations as big as this. Somebody has to sew it all together, see where they are, and then you have to be honest with yourselves.”
Barnard’s words suggest that more names are set to be cut off: “I don’t think they can have the right structure until they have the right people. They are beginning to understand that. Until they find the right people they are not going to go forward. Zak Brown has said it is not going to be a quick thing. It’s not, it’s like turning an oil tanker.”
Rumours from Spain are pointing towards Prodromou’s direction, stating that the former Red Bull designer is the next pawn in line to fall down. It looks like the management tends to fire one person at a time and maybe that is part of their renowned 'no-blame culture', which is currently leading to the opposite, but on the hunting side everything still seems rather quiet and still.
Most of McLaren’s energies have been spent on a potential Indy Car project, clashing with the urgent internal reshuffle. Criticised by many and praised by lots at the same time, Brown’s overseas design is aimed to expand the British company’s commercial potential from a sporting standpoint. Given that the F1 project requires an indefinite amount of time before it reaches out to the competitiveness lane, the American series may give them the opportunity to park Fernando Alonso for a year there, while keeping a close look at McLaren’s resurgence without formally cutting ties with the team.
If this happens to be the case, the team will be free to confirm Stoffel Vandoorne and promote British protégé Lando Norris, FIA F2’s current title contender along with George Russell. As I have stated in one of the past McLaren updates, the team is now facing a heavy and striking dissidence between its top-team mindset and its identity as a midfielder, which had held it back for several years.
Benefitting from Alonso’s temporary departure, the team would be free to get the development going at its own pace, without being forced to rush as their world champion’s hunger and frustration grow race by race. ‘Time is running out’ should be banned from their mindset from now on, as their only need is to focus and bravely debunk and unravel all detriments.