McLaren CEO Zak Brown is targeting incremental improvements from his team in 2020 ahead of Formula 1’s regulation changes in 2021.
The British squad finished fourth in 2019, its best result since the 2012 season, Carlos Sainz’s maiden podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix the squad’s best individual result.
Pleased to rise to fourth, Brown acknowledges that further progress will be difficult and is therefore keeping ambitions in check.
“The rules don’t change a lot (for the coming season), so I (think) our goal has to be to continue to incrementally improve,” Brown explained.
“We’ve still got a lot to work on.
“We started last season more than 1.5 seconds off pole, and towards the end of the year it was as low as eight-tenths.
“That’s still a big gap we need to close.”
Like most midfield teams, Brown is looking at the 2021 season as an opportunity courtesy of the introduction of a radical new ruleset.
The new regulations will have a significant impact on the way they develop their downforce courtesy of the reintroduction of ground effects in an effort to improve on-track action.
Financial regulations are also set to come into play as the sport looks to level out the playing field.
“It’s going to be the biggest reset in the recent history of Formula 1, and I think that’s going to be exciting,” Brown.
“With the budget cap coming in, that will help, but that’s not really going to settle in until 2022 and 2023.
“So, while we’re on forward progress up the field, it’s going to get harder the nearer we get to the front but all the men and women at McLaren are up for it.”
Alongside its Formula 1 programme, McLaren will next year campaign in the IndyCar Series in the United States.
McLaren has previously competed in the series, though its 2020 effort will mark its first full time entry since the 1970s following two attempts at the Indianapolis 500 in recent years.
It’s a project that’s been stood up to complement the F1 team, and work in conjunction with McLaren’s broader road car and technologies businesses.
“North America is an important market for McLaren,” said Brown.
“It’s the number one market for our automotive business, it’s important for our McLaren Applied and for the majority of our partners North America is critically important to them.
“While Formula 1 is on a nice growth curve, in America it still only races there once a year. Hopefully, soon, twice.
“To have platforms for our fans and our partners to follow us racing around the world and in North America is important to us.”
Brown believes his company is entering the series at the ideal time following Roger Penske’s purchase of both the category and International Motor Speedway.
“He has a true passion and love for the sport and everything Roger touches turns to gold,” Brown said of Penske’s investment.
“So, I can’t imagine, or can’t think of a better owner and custodian of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“So, I think our timing for entering the series is perfect – even though we didn’t know that was happening at the time.”
The 2020 Formula 1 season kicks off next month with two pre-season tests in Spain while the IndyCar Series gets underway on the streets of St Petersburg on March 15.