Brown says McLaren's budget remains "healthy"

McLaren’s Formula 1 team is working with a bigger budget for the new season despite the continuing lack of a title sponsor, executive director Zak Brown revealed at the launch of the 2017 MCL32.

The new livery harking back to the team’s original colours under founder Bruce McLaren was a major talking point when the wraps came off the car on Friday.

But it was noticeable that apart from oil partner Castrol, which has replaced Exxon Mobil, there was little to suggest on the surface that a new chapter for the team has begun from a commercial and financial point of view.

But Brown made it clear that the team has all it needs to improve its performance following the first two disappointing years in partnership with engine supplier Honda, thanks to further investment from controlling shareholders Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company and Mansour Ojjeh.

“I think history shows it takes a couple of years [to start winning],” said Brown, who joined McLaren in December in the wake of Ron Dennis’ departure.

“We have the right drivers, a healthy budget, Shaikh Mohamed and Mansour Ojjeh have increased our budget in areas, so we have everything we need. Now we just need it to work and a little bit of time for it to come together.”

Brown has a reputation as the most successful and high-profile F1 sponsor gatherer, but has consistently stated his caution to attract a new title sponsor in his first season at McLaren.

He is targeting 2018 to announce a new commercial partner.

“To get a sponsor takes about a year,” he said. “No miracles were going to happen in 2017. Most companies, any big decisions they are making are taken by October, November, December at the latest.

“We were just getting started in December, so there was no way – or at least it was unlikely – that we were going to get anything significant.

“I’ve been focusing on restructuring our commercial department and to get some good buzz back in this place, which I think we are accomplishing.

“I think our team launch has been the most anticipated, to create some excitement and some momentum and have people want to join us. The partners we currently have, I’ve visited all and they are very happy.”

“2018 is when we need to deliver a title partner. I already feel that pressure because it takes a year. But I haven’t seen any new sponsor announcements on any car, including on those that have won the championship for the past three years.

“I think that’s an indication of the headwinds we’ve been facing in F1. With Liberty Media coming in we now have a great story about where the sport is going. McLaren is now a good story, and so is F1 – so there are positive times ahead.”

Damien Smith