Formula One

McLaren’s Brown recalls crucial advice once given by Martin Brundle


Zak Brown has revealed the once crucial advice given to him by Martin Brundle during his first year at the helm of McLaren.

Brown was recruited by former CEO Ron Dennis as the end of 2016 to oversee the team’s commercial affairs, but upon the latter’s demise, the American was eventually entrusted with running the F1 team and reviving its former lustre.

But as marketing man well acquainted with his competitors who often relied on his friendliness and warmth to build his business relationships and seal his deals, Brown was suddenly required as a team boss to change his style and to take a tough stance against those in the paddock who were now his rivals.

“When I took over running McLaren, my background was I worked with all these teams and leagues, lots of them,” the McLaren chief told Marshall Pruett on the latter’s podcast.

“And in the business I was in before, I also needed to be a bit of ‘Switzerland’, because I was doing business with everyone and there wasn’t a competitive element if you like between me and the various teams.

“And I remember my first year at Spa, Martin Brundle gave me some advice, and it stuck with me.

“There was inappropriate language, so I won’t repeat exactly what he said,” remembered Brown.

“But he effectively told me that I was going to have to change my style from being everyone’s friend in pit-lane, to being pretty competitive and tough.”

Brown admitted that the change of attitude took some adjustment, but he knew that McLaren’s success depended on a more ‘team interest first’ approach to his relationships.

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“It was interesting because I’ve got an immense amount of respect for all the teams we race against, including some of those that I haven’t necessarily gotten along with,” he said.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for what they and their teams have accomplished.

“I also know that a few, very competitive people are trying to take drivers from you, and sponsors and staff and it’s a very competitive sport, on and off the track.

“And so, I think if you look at those that have had the most success, they make big, tough decisions. And especially as you’re kind of coming up the ranks, they’re quite stable and have been around for a long time.

“We’ve got to get our best driver line-ups put together and that means we’ve got to do what we think is in our best interest and is correct, but maybe isn’t popular.”

Oscar Piastri’s contract saga with Alpine last summer, which was resolved in favour of the young Aussie and of McLaren, provides a good case where Brown operated in the best interests of his team.

Also, Brown calling out Red Bull’s budget cap breach as a clear case of cheating did not go down well with the Milton Keynes-based outfit. But the McLaren boss now calls it as he sees it, for the sake of being a transparent as possible with his team’s shareholders, fans and opponents.

“I’m trying to build the most exciting racing team that the fans adore, and our partners. And our competition, we want to beat just like they want to beat us.

“So I also try and be very transparent, I recognise not everything I say, everyone’s going to agree with or like, but I put it out there and make my position known.

“I can tell you there’s a lot of people that don’t operate as transparently, so I’m just trying to do what’s best for McLaren, get us as competitive as possible as quickly as possible and everything that we do, do the right things and don’t be afraid.

“If you’re going to try and race with the big boys in the sport, you’re going to have to sometimes get in there and do a little bit of arm wrestling.

“It’s certainly not how I’d like every year to go, but if we’ve got to make a few tough decisions along the way to get us to a place where we’ve elevated our game, I want to be judged on my results in five, 10 years’ time, not next week.”

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McLaren’s Brown recalls crucial advice once given by Martin Brundle

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