Brown says Stella was always McLaren's 'number one choice' as new Team Principal vows 'hands-on' approach
Zak Brown says that once Andreas Seidl was set to leave his post as McLaren Team Principal, Andrea Stella was the “number one option” – while Stella believes he and Brown will make for a “strong combination” as McLaren plot their route back to the top.
Stella joined McLaren from Ferrari as the Head of Race Operations in 2015 before being appointed as the papaya team’s Performance Director in 2018 and Executive Racing Director in 2019.
And now with Seidl – who served as McLaren’s Team Principal from 2019 – departing the team to take up the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Sauber Group, Stella is once again promoted, but this time to the role of Team Principal, which Brown described as an “extremely” exciting proposition.
“[Finn] Rausing [Sauber Holding AG Chairman of the Board of Directors], who is someone that I have known for a decade and get along with very well, gave me a call to see if there was a discussion to be had, to potentially release Andreas early [from his contract],” said McLaren Racing CEO Brown, speaking to the media in an open press call following the announcement.
"My reaction was if Andrea would be happy to join as Team Principal, then I would be very happy to make that change now, which I think puts everyone in their permanent homes for the foreseeable future."
Brown also revealed that Seidl let him know “after the first race of the year and before the last race” about his intentions to move on from McLaren in the future, although the team’s CEO admits the German's departure came about a little quicker than expected.
“He informed me during the season that he was going to go elsewhere when his contract was up at the end of 2025,” said Brown. "[It was] probably pretty clear where that destination would be, which was quite understandable, given his background. At that time, we intended to continue for the foreseeable future, because the relationship is very, very healthy and his work discipline is very strong.
"What we were going to do at that point was, at the end of the season, let the world know that that change would come in at the end of the  season and, after we intended to go public, the first person I was going to call to see if they would lead McLaren's F1 team is the gentleman sitting next to me, Andrea – but not at that point being sure whether that would be something that he would consider.”
He added: “So, I went about having a conversation with Andrea, pre-having any awareness that Andreas was going to move on for the  season. After some good conversations, Andrea kindly accepted the role, which then put us in a very comfortable position to move forward because Andrea was always our number one choice to lead the team moving forward.
“So, that all came together quite rapidly and here we are with Andrea now as our Team Principal, which myself, our drivers, our team, are extremely excited about. Andrea obviously has a wealth of experience, not only with McLaren but a rich history with Ferrari. So, he is someone that we knew, who knew the team inside out.
“He is a very hands-on person in the racing team, which was of high interest to me and the shareholders – to have someone leading the team that gets their hands dirty, so to speak. So, we are very excited and that's how we came about to where we are today.”
Stella – whose Formula 1 career started as a Performance Engineer for Ferrari in 2000 – said he expects to have a “hands-on” approach as Team Principal, before outlining his objective of building a quick race car.
“I think my style will be a hands-on type of Team Principal,” said Stella. “I think the opportunity that we have is that I've have been dealing with and exposed to the engineering and racing elements of Formula 1 throughout my career.
“I will be close to the core objectives of the team, which ultimately is to build a quick car and race this car effectively while on track. If I may say, I think there are some really strong elements of integration and combination between my characteristics and Zak, so I think it's clear it is a very strong combination.”