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Andrea Stella

Exclusive: McLaren's Stella on 'special secrets' and the plan to catch Red Bull

Andrea Stella has been praised for how he has settled into the team principal role at McLaren and transformed the team in under a year from also-rans to grand prix winners,

Norris Stella podium
To news overview © XPBimages

During the Monaco Grand Prix, all Formula 1 teams are incredibly busy with the usual technical meetings and media commitments, with McLaren team principal Andrea Stella making time to speak with RacingNews365. 

In charge at Woking since the start of 2023, Stella has helped turn the team into one of the top operations on the grid with big upgrade packages transforming the cars created under his leadership, with Lando Norris winning the Miami Grand Prix after a fresh batch of parts. 

After years in the F1 wilderness, McLaren finally appears to be back fighting at the top of F1, and so RacingNews365 was curious as to what the secret is behind McLaren's 'return' to the head of the field. 

"There is no special secret I am afraid, but if there was, I wouldn't say," the affable Stella laughs when he exclusively speaks with RacingNews365. 

"The reality is that there is no secret, but we are definitely using this period, in which we could enjoy some good results at the start of the season, especially since the upgrade, to reflect on how we made it possible. 

"Because we want to make sure that we don't alter the approach that we've had so far just because results are starting to come to us or that we can alter our approach in a way that is exactly what we want to do, rather than things happening because we changed our approach and mindset.

"Then we [would] realise in a few months that we have changed the mindset, so whilst we're trying to enjoy the results, trying to celebrate, we also reflect as a group of people.

"We need to make sure we are persevering the approach, the mindset and the culture that is required to keep building."

Before joining McLaren as head of operations in 2015, Stella worked at Ferrari during its incredibly successful era in the early 2000s, working with the likes of Scuderia world champions Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. 

He was Fernando Alonso's race engineer between 2010 and 2014, before following the Spaniard to Woking for 2015, albeit in a superior technical role, rising through the ranks to be named as team principal after Andreas Seidl left to head up the Audi project.

As such, the 53-year-old has a good idea of where McLaren needs to go next.

Andrea Stella profile

Year Team Role
2000 Ferrari (test team) Performance engineer
2002 Ferrari (Michael Schumacher) Performance engineer
2007 Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen) Performance engineer
2009 Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen) Race engineer
2010-2014 Ferrari (Fernando Alonso) Race engineer
2015 McLaren Head of operations
2018 McLaren Performance director
2019 McLaren Racing director
2023 McLaren Team boss

Red Bull is a goal

At the start of his tenure in 2023, McLaren was playing down expectations with its MCL60 design, with poor results at the start of the season for new team leader Lando Norris and then-rookie Oscar Piastri. 

After the first eight races, up to the Canadian GP, it had just 17 points on the board, but an upgrade across the Austrian and British GP weekends transformed the car into a front-runner, with a further package in Singapore boosting Norris and Piastri to closest contenders to the all-conquering Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

Piastri picked up sprint victory in Qatar in a late-season charge that also saw Norris take five podiums from the final eight races. A new upgrade in Miami, twinned with a lucky safety car brought Norris an emotional and long-awaited maiden victory with the MCL38 now firmly nipping at Red Bull's heels.

But just because McLaren is now close to Red Bull, does not mean that Stella will take it easy in his plan for the team.

"We have won a race, we have scored a few podiums, but let's look at what Red Bull has achieved, we have the ambition to be there one day," Stella continues.

"But when we see where we are at the moment, it is like there is a full mountain to climb to be where they are.

"There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we want to make sure we climb the mountain following the right path, so there is joy, celebration, but a lot of analysis and reflection as to 'how do we keep moving forward and following the path we established one year ago?'"

"At the moment, it is like there is a full mountain to climb to be where [Red Bull] are.

- Andrea Stella

How to lead an F1 team

Head-counts at modern F1 teams range from about 700-1000, but automatically employing more staff does not mean an immediate transformation in performance, with Stella keen to implement a synergetic culture at the team, currently enjoying an upward curve across the board in terms of performance as well commercial and sponsorship aspects.

"We are clear about what is our approach to getting the most out of every single individual that works at McLaren," says Stella. 

"Because in 2024, there is not going to be anybody with the pen in his hand that is going to draw the fastest car - the fastest car is always going to be the result of many, many contributions and synergies.

"If I have a piece of information to design a front-wing, I need to share it in the most constructive way with the other guy that has a piece of information about a front-wing, and then as a group, we design a good front-wing.

"The technical abilities are as important as the teamwork abilities, because if I have 10 super specialists, but they don't work in synergy, then we are not going to have a good front-wing.

"So even in my position, you have to make sure that you are developed enough on things that are not only technical but we need to make sure that everyone is fully aware that it is not a technical business.

"Ultimately, humans design cars, humans produce cars, humans operate cars and humans drive the cars - so it is a people business."

"We are aware that this is a business in which even if it is at the pinnacle of technology in motorsport, it is a human-led business. 

"It is all about getting the most out of people within a company, and because of that, I don't think there is a specific way to go about things in Formula 1."

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