This year, McLaren's season was the epitome of that unpredictability, a tale of a team's revival from a challenging beginning, spearheaded by a sense of belief and fresh leadership.
From Shaky Starts to Stellar Finishes
As Zak Brown, McLaren's principal, reflected on the season, he recalled the trepidation he felt at the beginning of the year.
The team's less than ideal performance in the preseason, coupled with technical boss James Key's departure in March, hinted at a challenging year ahead. Brown's words painted a vivid picture: "The thing that was challenging was things weren't feeling good in August and didn't look good in February." Yet, despite early setbacks, McLaren bounced back in the latter part of the season.
This resurgence was evident as Lando Norris secured podiums in Silverstone and Budapest, and Oscar Piastri made his mark by finishing second in Belgium's sprint race. Brown credits a good part of this transformation to a shift in the technical team's leadership and direction.
With Key's move to Sauber, many felt a vacuum, but Brown was of a different opinion. He suggested Key might have been inadvertently hindering the progress. "When they were given the guidance and freedom and authority to do what they do best they delivered," Brown elaborated, pointing out that the same team members who began the season were also responsible for its significant improvements.
The Turning Point: Harnessing Internal Talent
Brown was quick to name the silent heroes behind the scenes, the technical minds who persisted through the tough times: "The Rob Marshalls, the David Sanchezes... The change is credit to Andrea for unblocking and refreshing and energising a lot of talent that we already had -- Pete Podromou, Neil Oatley, Piers Thynne, etcetera." Andrea's approach was particularly noteworthy.
Instead of making grand predictions about race performance, he maintained a pragmatic yet optimistic outlook. Brown admired Andrea's honesty, sharing, "He was simply saying 'We think our development is going to be good'" This modest yet hopeful prediction kept the team grounded, and when all eyes turned to McLaren in Austria, they didn't disappoint.