McLaren have appointed German Andreas Seidl as the new boss of their struggling Formula 1 team.
Seidl’s recruitment in the new role of managing director is the latest in a series of management changes aimed at making McLaren competitive again.
The 46-year-old, ex-boss of Porsche’s World Endurance Championship team, will join “during 2019”, reporting to chief executive officer Zak Brown.
Brown said Seidl was “a highly capable leader with a track record of success”.
He added: “It is another important step in our F1 performance recovery plan and long-term commitment to F1.”
Seidl, who worked in F1 for BMW from 2000-09, does not yet have a specific start date because McLaren have yet to agree a leaving date with Porsche.
“This is an enormous privilege and challenge,” he said. “To have an opportunity to contribute to the McLaren legacy is extremely special and inspiring.
“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.”
Why the new role for Seidl?
McLaren decided that they needed someone to take direct operational responsibility for the F1 team under Brown and the board of directors.
That person will be Seidl, who is highly regarded for his work with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.
His appointment ensures that there is now a senior manager with oversight of and sole responsibility for the F1 team and no other distractions.
Brown’s role is not to run the F1 team on a day-to-day basis – as chief executive officer, he has authority over all of McLaren’s racing activities, including the IndyCar programme set up for this season and a potential future entry into the World Endurance Championship.
“Concentrated senior leadership on our F1 programme is an integral part of the long-term strategy of McLaren Racing to expand into other forms of global motorsport over time,” Brown said.
Latest step in McLaren revolution
Seidl is the fourth new management appointment since July, with three top-level figures having left as a consequence of McLaren’s poor performance last season.
Chief technical officer Tim Goss was removed from his position in April, followed by the resignation of engineering director Matt Morris in July. That left only head of aerodynamics Peter Prodromou still in situ of three men who had headed McLaren’s design department at the start of the season.
McLaren have re-signed Pat Fry – who left them to join Ferrari in 2010 before being fired at the end of 2014 – as engineering director and have appointed James Key as technical director.
Key will start work for McLaren this year, probably in the spring or early summer, once he has finished his ‘gardening leave’ from former employers Toro Rosso.
On the operational side, racing director Eric Boullier resigned in July and former IndyCar driver Gil De Ferran was simultaneously appointed sporting director.
Why all the changes?
McLaren switched from Honda engines to Renault for 2018. They believed the Japanese power unit was holding them back and expected to be close to fellow Renault users Red Bull on performance last season.
Instead, McLaren had the second slowest car on average. It was two seconds a lap slower than the Red Bull.
The team finished sixth of 10 teams in the constructors’ championship, but 80% of their points were scored by two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who left F1 at the end of 2018 and will race for the newly established McLaren team at the Indianapolis 500 this May.
Alonso has been replaced by fellow Spaniard and former Toro Rosso and Renault driver Carlos Sainz, whose team-mate will be British rookie Lando Norris.
De Ferran’s role will expand to take in the IndyCar programme and, potentially in the future, a world sportscar entry.
The 51-year-old is effectively to be Brown’s right-hand man across all McLaren’s motorsport activities – he is essentially an internal management consultant, floating across all aspects of McLaren’s racing operations and offering advice and insight.
The Brazilian will remain heavily involved in F1, but is also likely to be part of Alonso’s bid to win the Indy 500, where the Spaniard is bidding to become only the second man in history to win motorsport’s unofficial ‘triple crown’.
This is to win Indy, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix, although some regard the F1 aspect of it as the world championship.
De Ferran, who won the Indy 500 in 2001, and was twice a champion of the related Champ Car series, acted as Alonso’s driver coach at Indy in 2017, when the Spaniard led 24 laps and was contending for victory when his engine failed in the closing stages.
In addition, De Ferran has run his own team in endurance racing in the US in the past.