A DARK horse – or more accurately a bright orange one – is looming in the 2019 Formula 1 scene in the form of McLaren, which has just announced a major move to climb back to the front of the grid.
The team has had a painful six seasons without a win but the iconic British squad now has a new chief after appointing Andreas Seidl as managing director of its Formula 1 team.
McLaren’s last drivers’ championship win was in 2008, and its last constructors’ victory was in 1998.
Its last win came in 2012, at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Since then, and McLaren has managed just two more podiums, both at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.
Last year was an improvement, but there’s still a big gap between them and the class leaders Mercedes and Ferrari.
Seidl, a 43-year-old German, has a great motorsport pedigree, having worked at BMW Motorsport from 2000 to 2006, then at BMW Sauber as head of track operations until 2009.
He also headed Porsche’s recent LMP1 successes in the World Endurance Championship and in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
His appointment comes just days after Ferrari announced its own senior management changes.
He will report to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.
“I have just presented a five-year plan,” Brown said.
“We have laid out a journey and investment, a road to recovery that sees us getting back to the front of the grid in that timeline.”
Seidl’s appointment follows a leadership reshuffle midway through the last campaign, when racing director Eric Boullier left the team.
Seidl will now oversee a new era, which has rookie driver Lando Norris paired alongside the more experienced Carlos Sainz in 2019.
Sainz was favoured to take the Ferrari seat vacated by Kimi Raikkonen, but sensationally declined, opting instead for McLaren. He must have known big things were afoot at the Brit outfit.
“To have an opportunity to contribute to the McLaren legacy is extremely special and inspiring,” Seidl said.
“McLaren has the vision, leadership and experience but, most importantly, the people to return to the front, and that will be my absolute focus and mission.
“I can’t wait to join the team and begin working with my colleagues at McLaren, our partners at Renault and, of course, Carlos and Lando.”
Brown added that Seidl’s job was two-pronged.
“First, it is another important step in our Formula 1 performance recovery plan and long-term commitment to F1.
“Second, concentrated senior leadership on our Formula 1 program is an integral part of the long-term strategy of McLaren Racing to expand into other forms of global motorsport over time.
“Andreas is a highly capable leader with a track record of success in everything he has been involved with, and I look forward to working with him.”
The new McLaren F1 car is scheduled to be launched on February 14.