“This is just the start” – Changes promised as McLaren F1’s racing director Boullier resigns
McLaren
Posted By: Editor   |  04 Jul 2018   |  11:40 pm GMT  |  133 comments

With McLaren failing to meet performance expectations in 2018, especially with their much-anticipated switch from Honda to Renault power units, McLaren CEO Zak Brown has vowed to fix the problems within the team following the resignation of race director Eric Boullier.

After a reasonable start to the season, McLaren had dropped further down the midfield in recent races, and with one points finish in four races, pressure was mounting on Boullier.

Today, McLaren announced that they had began a process of changing the “leadership restructure of its racing operations”, with Boullier being replaced by a three-man leadership team, which include a new role for Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who has been brought on board as sporting director.

Andrea Stella is appointed Performance Director, responsible for trackside operations, whilst Simon Roberts, COO of McLaren Racing, will oversee production, engineering and logistics.

“I am very proud to have worked with such a brilliant team over the past four years, but I recognise now is the right time for me to step down,” said Boullier.

“I want to wish everyone at McLaren the best for the remainder of the season and for the future.”

Brown lays blame on existing management structure

With Brown claiming that McLaren had failed to hit their targets for 2018, he said that “major change from within” was required to address the problems in the team.

“The performance of the MCL33 in 2018 has not met the expectations of anyone at McLaren, especially our loyal fans. This is not the fault of the hundreds of committed and hard-working men and women at McLaren,” said Brown.

“The causes are systemic and structural, which require major change from within. With today’s announcement, we start to address those issues head on and take the first step on our road to recovery.”

There have been a number of high-level personnel changes at McLaren in recent years, with the likes of chairman Ron Dennis and former team principal Martin Whitmarsh leaving the team.

Brown added that a simpler organisation structure was necessary for a team which had become “clunky” in recent years.

“The reason the car is not performing on the track is because we’re not performing well as a team,” Brown told Sky F1.

“What I see is we’re too slow to react, we need to simplify things within the organisation and we need to operate like a race team.

“[McLaren needs to be] a much faster organisation, we’re a bit too slow and a bit too clunky. That’s not any one individual’s fault, I know we have got great people here, so it’s our ways of working that need to change.

“My job is to get all 700-800 people rowing the same way as quickly as possible, communicating well because it’s those people that produce the race car. So we might have a race-car problem, but it’s how we built the race car that’s actually the real problem.”

“It’s just the start of the process, we’re far from finished. We need to be a faster, more nimble organisation that communicates better because I think we’ve got great talent here, it’s not just gelling like it needs to gel.”

“But I think we’re in a good place now, we’ve got a good foundation and I want to build on that rather than continue to make changes.”

All images: Motorsport Images

What do you think of the personnel changes made by McLaren? Leave your comments below.

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1

Rather disappointing to see both article and posts only focussing on people management problems. Surely after half a year of underperformance it must be possible to pinpoint some of the technical issues? Even if that’s not possible my impression is McLaren’s main problem is lack of knowledge to tackle the problems. They appear at a loss what to implement technically to improve the chassis and aero. Or, maybe in part they know what could be done but it conflicts with what they already have in place to such a degree that they are at a loss where to begin. Either way, a situation very different from one where you know what must be done but fail to do so because of organisational issues and lacking people management skills.

Since nobody took the trouble, I tried to dig up some things myself. Since we’re looking at technical problems, I started with what McLaren’s Chief Technical Officer – Chassis, Tim Goss had to say pre-season (on McLaren’s own site):

“With last year’s car, we had to commit to certain decisions about architecture based on what we knew at the time. With learning behind us, we’ve used that understanding to adjust some architectural decisions. That means we’ve been able to revise all the sorts of things you bake into the chassis at the start of the year.”

“In terms of development, the design team has focused on refining the package; making it neater, simpler and more elegant. And that just gives the aerodynamicists more scope to play with the bodywork.”

Creating that neat packaging has brought its fair share of challenges. Beneath the bodywork lies a new power unit with a significantly different philosophy to its predecessor.

“That change has been a big deal,” says Goss. “Even though the regulations state that the front and rear engine mounts need to be the same for every manufacturer, the layout of the engine, its architecture, is very different from before. There are two families of engine out there; the Mercedes and Honda concept, with the compressor at the front of the engine, turbine at the back, MGU-H sat in the vee; and the Ferrari and Renault approach, where the turbo-charger is at the back of the engine, and the MGU-H sits forwards into the vee.”

“Each of those approaches has its pros and cons, but I’m actually quite a big fan of the Renault approach. Making the switch had a big impact on the installation of the engine. The advantage of the Renault layout means that we can push the engine forwards, but then you have the compressor at the back of the engine, so you’ve got to get the outlet pipes forward without impacting the packaging.”

“We had to redesign the back of the chassis, the gearbox bell-housing area, the rear suspension, and the cooling layout. That was two weeks of intense effort to get right. But it was something we were somewhat prepared for, because we knew it might happen, and it’s amazing what people can do in such a short space of time when the chips are down and you’ve got a really clear mission.”

“So now we’ve got a really tidy packaging solution; the gearbox and rear suspension designers did an unbelievable job to redesign everything.”

Is it fair to say there were many possibilities for mistakes here, as well as wrong approaches taken? In addition, apparently favourable wind tunnel testing wrongfooted the engineering staff. On track performance turned out to be very poor.

On f1technical.net you’ll find some very interesting discussions as to the current problems. Some of the suggestions I came across: loss of the T-wing, not taking effect of halo into account, underestimating the extent to which downforce was reduced, general correlation issues. Consensus seems to be that issues at the front need to be sorted out first, before tackling the rear.

I am not listing all of this because I’m knowledgable. On the contrary, I would welcome it if one or more experts could say something about this in more concise form. I do feel McLaren are in dire need of better-informed up-to-speed engineers rather than managers only skilled in moving people around.

2
Chris Sturgeon

During Channels 4’s qualifying programme at Silverstone this afternoon, Eddie Jordan took to the subject of McLaren’s lamentable form ( and that of Williams).

Scathing to say the least, it was certainly impassioned. His criticisms included the accusation of jobs for the boys (due to the placement of a friend of Zak Brown) and that Alonso, for whatever reason had not fulfilled his promise.
Jordan’s first move, he said, would be to hire a competent technical person.
Brown was afforded the opportunity to respond and said that it was going to take time.

3

Zak Brown is stuffed – brimming, in fact, with [mod].

4

Can’t see how anyone even tries to compare Alonsos with his team mates, and be serious at the same time. One of his team mates was ordered to drive into a concrete wall so he could win. That sums up how he’s had it in most teams, except when he met Ron. And to an extent Montezemolo, at least when he had to renew his contract, and the Massa number two clause would not be applied anymore, to any other team mate of him, and of he went. I think he would have had it coming to him in a bad way with Marchionne, maybe he already was lurking in the shadow:)

5

I know this is old news and repeating this might be annoying to some but I clearly remember early in 2017 that Bernie clearly said: “Honda is not the problem – the problem is McLaren”. So, after those comments and now with all the woodwork showing well Bernie was right… … On an upper note, Ham doing great on FP1 at Silverstone. 👍

6

I don’t know, and having read every previous comment it doesn’t seem that anyone really knows, why McLaren are not only not very good but show no signs of possible improvement. Only Williams are in the same position; every other team behind the big 3 has shown encouraging spirit and potential this season. But surely the main problem must be lack of great design engineers? Someone, or several someones, is not up to the job of making a competitive F1 car. Alonso cannot possibly be the problem, wrestling the car into the points and leaving Vandoorne behind as he regularly does. And I don’t see what this has to do with management, except for its failure to find great designers. Even a socialist like me can’t blame the boss for the “F2 car” the drivers are struggling with.

7

I think the main cause is the team need a change from Freddo chocolate bars to maybe Twix or even Mars bars if the kitty could stretch, you know the motto: A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play …

8

This is not the fault of the hundreds of committed and hard-working men and women at McLaren,” said Brown. then whose fault is it ? oh yeah that’s right it’s the matrix.

9

Zak Brown’s interview on Sky hit my Youtube last night.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think he sounds like he is directly out of the Trump mould, & that’s not a good thing.

10

I’m confused. How is sacking 1 guy and replacing him with 3 guys making the maclaren group quicker to react?

11

Like many here I watched the Netflix McLaren doc on Netflix. Yes, it was a terrible year for them but I couldn’t helping asking myself, “This is the mighty McLaren?” Some meetings seemed really awkward in terms of team members interactions with each other.

12

Zak the marketing guy has not brought any sponsorship.

He talks about indy car and Le mans but where is F1-The core business.

He was the one to call the shots to leave Honda (suffer $100mn) – how did he assess that MCCLAREN chassis was winning one. He claimed multiple times that with Renault they will fight for wins.

He brings in more people to replace one.

All these signs point to him as a failure.

Should he not be the first to be fired??

13

So how many new sponsors has Maclaren gained in the last 18moths then?

14
Tornillo Amarillo

Poor Lando Norris!

15

Eric didn’t resign on his own volition. He was forced out. I mean, he was sweating like a dog in sweltering summer heat. That whole Freddo-gate just brought the whole thing to a boiling point.

What is alarming is Zak Brown is saying that it will take 2-10 years(!) for them to return to the level McLaren has been known for. 2-10 yrs?!?!? Was this Woking outfit broken that bad? I think there’s a bit of posturing being done here.

16

Ad man Brown needs to be part of the purge. Just look at his dismal record of accomplishments as “leader”. The car sponsorship is made up of loser companies that actually represent the team quire well – good job Brown.

What is actually happening at McLaren is an exodus – Zac spins it as if its him making changes…. ok – first Honda leave, now Eric , soon Alonso and then what Zac ? Hire Stroll to compete the circle ?

What a waste of heritage.

17

gil de feran… didn’t he have something to do with bar? not a good way at that?

18

mclaren was built by ron dennis, old school hassler who is used to locking horns with mosely ecclestone and co. if the new owners want to experience success, they should take a degree in the mosely ecclestone dennis history.

19

As the saying goes……..

Past success is no guarantee of future glory.

Zac Brown…….really,the guy is revolting in every way. He won’t improve mclaren period. The only real question is will there be any thing left of the team for his eventual successor to salvage.

20

Changes what though? The car won’t become 2 seconds a lap quicker, it’s not going to get a podium. The car is crap, that’s a combination of a lot of things and that won’t be fixed this season. Or next season.

The issues McLaren has are systemic, sacking a few leaders is the last of the problems in that team that need addressing.

Lastly, there needs to be a return to unfettered testing. Teams need to be allowed to sort out performance issues, and test new parts and updates, properly. At the moment, if you launch a slow car, it’s staying a slow car.

21

Ferrari is a rich company and team. But when Alonso’s buddy, in Santander was not there to protect him he was out. If he was a good enough driver he wouldv’e had a chance to stay there, but he wasn’t. Then he started (before he just played he usual game of blaming and so on) but if one has read the Italian press one knowes how he started to really insult and just put down Ferrari in every aspect ypu can imagine. It was almos ridicuous, or rathe it was, for one who exclaimed he left on his on terms. Now he’s destroying McLaren, among others.

22

Ahh mate, pretty sure the issue is not the driver in this case.

23

One of many I believe

24

So Alonso is not a good driver then. Well from what is generally read he is rated as one of the best if not the best of the current generation by those that actually know. Do yourself a favor and wind in your hate. The majority of the points that Maclaren have are Alonso’s right.

25

Why this need to bring out the hate card. Sure, majority of points. First of all I’ve never said he’s a bad driver. Secondly you’ve missed the point about what I have written about this particular driver.

There could be many more points made though. Let’s try one; Why is he driving a GP2 engine or car as he likes t put it, and has done for some time? Why could he not go to McLaren the first time around, before Kimi left. Why could he not cope with a rookie, when he finally got there? Why could he not go to Ferrari until KImi left again. And for the other team he was in, enough is already said. Just seams that where ever he goes, the team plummet, could just be a coincident though, who knows? Generally what you read is point on right?

26

Jeez what a bunch of questions that nobody can answer because they are not Alonso, and in all honesty totally pointless. Its blatantly obvious that you have no time for him from your posts. Generally what you read is on point sure as long as you have enough sense to fact check first, unless of course what you read fits your opinion. Just an FYI Maclaren was in a bad way long before Alonso joined for the second time and their problems will not be fixed overnight. Even all theses people spouting for Zac Brown to go as its all his fault seem to forget that F1 has changed. Title Sponsor?…Zac Brown has said they don’t want one. Eric B being replaced by three people? Well if what his job entailed has become too much for one person to focus on and because of that certain areas suffer then it makes total sense to split the job to make it more efficient and focused. let me as you a question as relevant as those you asked me…Why did the chicken cross the road?

27

Well not a fan of B, but there are many worse.

28

And dont forget Ron could stand his ground, not letting an driver getting first priority, no matter how insisting the driver was. If thiswould not have hapend Lewis would not have been 4 time champ.

29
Martin Holden

What a sad state of affairs. Boullier did a great job in the Gene Lotus days but ultimately took on a poisoned chalice. We “fans” have no idea how it is inside an F1 team, but what we can see from the sidelines is the mojo of “wanting to be a race team” and shutting out other distractions like toad cars or other diversification as one key element. Then you need a crack designer and a sell honed team of people to suppprt the designer. Finally you need good drivers, but which came first?

Regarding team leadership, some have called on Brown to go; he was put there to sort it out, all be it only happening now. Maclaren like Williams need to totally re jig the personnel to get in qualified people. What’s the betting that this restructuring is being done to attract a good replacement for Fernando – Ricciardo??? I don’t think staying in Red Bull is the right move as they are firmly in the Verstappen court. Folk say Maclaren and Williams have not forgotten how to win and they haven’t but they need a great chassis as a base. I hope they will both “pick up the ball and run like hell with it to catch up”

30

I believe his is the best team in the history of F1. Yes there is a little emotional bias there, but still. All things considererd the had dome so much when racing still mattered. I like the Ron doctrin; better be fast than reliable, not sure it was the exact words you know the spirit. And they have got most the best drivers there has ever been: Counting not in any particularly order but here they are, Senna; Prost, Hakkinen, Raikkonen, Lewis, Lauda and Hunt. You could keep counting but these are the best there have ever been in the history of F1particularly, or maybe the best without contest. Of course Schumi and Seb putside of McLaren can be compared, and some other in the older days could be in cuestion in this company, but not too many.

31

I wouldn’t be so sure that Boullier was pushed. Although quitting mid-season never looks loyal, I suspect he might have felt unempowered to make necessary changes.

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