Brown defends his track record at McLaren

03/06/2018
NEWS STORY

Now in his second full season at Woking, while the papaya adorning the MCL33 is largely uncluttered by sponsors logos, other than those for Fernando Alonso's leisurewear company, Zak Brown, who was brought into McLaren, ostensibly on his record as a 'sponsorship guru', defends his record.

Shortly after taking over the reins at Woking, the American controversially declared that the day of the title sponsor was over, insisting that he would instead be concentrating on multiple smaller deals.

While a number of partnerships have been announced, it is unclear how much they have added to the Woking coffers, while the recruitment of a Business Advisory Group - which includes the MD of Martini, which has already announced the end of its partnership with Williams, has seemingly done little, thus far, of note.

"There's two ways of looking at it," Brown tells the official F1 website. "We've announced more deals than anyone else. Right, so you can go half empty, half full.

"Half empty is that there's still a lot of orange on the car and, you know, rebuilding competitiveness is going to take a few years, rebuilding commercial is going to take a few years. So that's the half empty.

"Half full is that we've done sponsorship deals with Petrobras, Dell and CMBC. HTC is more of a licencing deal because I want to build on McLaren brand licencing. We do a fraction of what we should be doing and I think we can do a lot more things with our brand, so that's part of that building process."

Having to find the 275m to pay Ron Dennis for his 25% stake in the company, which at one stage saw him secure 37.5m on 13 rare and historic cars, did little to ease the strain on the Woking coffers, but then along came Michael Latifi and his 200m.

"I'm happy," insists Brown. "But obviously I want more and more and more. But if you look down the grid, Ferrari did one deal, Mercedes has traded one deal, Boss for Hilfiger, Williams are losing Martini... and we've done four or five deals, so from that standpoint, it's kind of like we've gone from 10th in the championship to fifth. But everyone was expecting us to be second."

On track, the record is equally questionable. Of the early season claims by both the team and Fernando Alonso that Red Bull was the target, Brown admits: "We’re too far off that, and it’s not going to happen overnight.”

On the other hand the recent upgrade showed promise.

"It worked," says Brown. "It was a definite step forward, it was good because the car was responsive, and the drivers liked it, so it was substantial. And there was good correlation with what we had expected from our wind tunnel research, so it gives us a better platform for the next upgrades."

There are some, who feel that Brown is part of the problem, and that while the latter years under Dennis saw the team lose focus, the situation has worsened under a man who made his name (and fortune) from marketing.

"I think there's a lot of jealousy in this sport," he says. "I recognise, especially now in this role, that I'm not going to please everyone all the time and the court of public opinion is always just on the favour of us.

"I know I'm going to have 10%, 15%, 20% - pick a number - of people that are not Zak fans," he adds, "but I think I've just got to do what I think's right for McLaren and let the chips fall.

"I know we're under pressure, I know I'm under pressure. Probably, if there's a frustrating thing - and you know because you know racing - it's that people don't understand just how long these things take. Right now, we just have to be head down, doing the hard work, focused, and with a clear direction."

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Published: 03/06/2018
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