News Formula 1 - A Bavarian in the belly of...

Formula 1 – A Bavarian in the belly of the dinosaur – Sport

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Andreas Seidl, team manager of McLaren since the beginning of May, wants to lead the British racing team to the top of Formula One.


By Philipp Schneider, Silverstone / Munich

The helmet, which they have exhibited on a stele in Spielberg, Austria, right next to the entrance of the motor home, looks like a miniature version of the motor home. Of course the helmet has a visor. And the motorhome has a visually rounded glass façade, albeit almost as tall as a village church. The helmet is one of the three world champion helmets by Niki Lauda, ​​he wore it in 1984. The chunky motorhome was built by Ron Dennis, still the most successful team boss in Formula 1 history. Helmet and motorhome are relics of a time in which the McLaren team from Woking has collected the second most points after Ferrari: eight constructors' titles. Twelve Driver World Championships. There are also 182 race wins, 155 pole positions and 155 fastest laps. It was not so long ago that the visitor would have experienced a dreariness in the face of the deep crisis that had hit McLaren.

Noiseless, the entrance gate slides on, the air of the Alps flows into it.

If you want to visit the man who is supposed to make sure that the faded racing stamp from the county of Surrey shines again, you have to go straight into the architectural legacy of Ron Dennis, where there are no doorknobs. The doors open without asking. Unless they can be opened only by fingerprint as the way to the toilet. Because Dennis does not like visible screws, there are no screws, at least no visible ones. The Motorhome, with the grace of a Romulan spaceship, is a place where one must first learn to feel at home. It is possible.

Once up the stairs, the new team boss sits at a table.

He smiles. His racing cars ran very well again in the qualification of Austria. Andreas Seidl, 43, from Passau is a passer. In 2000 he helped to push BMW into Formula 1, after the exit of the Munich from the premier class in 2009, he organized her entry into the DTM. He then moved to Porsche and orchestrated there the return to the long haul. For the past ten years, Seidl has always been involved in building new structures. And now he sits in the belly of a dinosaur of Formula 1, which has already eaten many of its predecessors. The founders, Bruce McLaren, were followed by bosses Teddy Mayer, Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh – and most recently Eric Boullier and Gil de Ferran. Yes, this job is different, says Seidl. "This time, I'm getting into an existing structure, but that's the appeal for me." He has always had fun "leading large motor sport operations". McLaren in 2019 is a motor sport emergency operation. In the past, the brand was famous for its intricate matrix structure, which made it easy for people responsible to blame themselves for mistakes. Seidl restructured now. He strives for a "clear chain of command". A classic chain of command from top to bottom, in which there are "clear reports".

Zak Brown, supreme overseer of all McLaren Motorsport activities, lured Seidl to an addiction interview at Le Mans promising he would be able to rebuild the Formula One team to his liking. He was a "competition type", the prospect of a return to the premier class was immediately very attractive. But before making a commitment he wanted to know: "What is the owner's vision?" Seidl says owner. This is more convenient, as he would say: the Mumtalakat Holding Company of the State of Bahrain and Mansour Ojjeh, a partner of TAG, a Luxembourg-based company. In the past, McLaren used to be largely owned by Daimler AG. Even Ron Dennis owned until 2017 still 25 percent of the racing team, which is now fully owned by Mumtalakat and Ojjeh. And Seidl's chief boss is Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa from Bahrain.

So Seidl wanted to get a vision of those owners, before he would put his signature under a working paper. He liked what he heard. Seidl also liked that he managed to wrest a handsome investment from his superiors: a wind tunnel in Woking. "When I saw that they would continue investing to take the team to the top, the decision was clear to me." This wind tunnel is actually a "no brainer," says Seidl, a matter of course, if McLaren wants to keep up with the big ones. So far, McLaren is using the wind tunnel from Toyota in Cologne. He is not bad, says Seidl, "but there you have to fly the people from England to Cologne and back and always have a logistical disadvantage".

After the reform in 2021 he wants to make with McLaren the connection to Mercedes and Ferrari

Before the canal is completed, Seidl can only optimize its development environment. And it works surprisingly well: After the ninth race of the season, Seidl's troupe has settled in fourth place. McLaren is "best of the rest", as it is called, has collected 20 points more than Renault. From the French McLaren gets its engine – and for a factory team, there is nothing more unpleasant than that a customer lies in front of him. Seidl is too polite to be satisfied. That things are going so well again with the young drivers Carlos Sainz jr. and Lando Norris, that's mainly because of their colleagues' development work in winter, says Seidl when he was not even Woking. Nevertheless, he promises, he will soon put on the "master plan" for the next few years.

Seidl needs the help of the Fia World Federation and all the other teams for this plan, which includes joining the top teams. He can implement his plan only after the reform, which is planned for 2021. "Even if we are currently doing a perfect job, it would not be possible to keep up," says Seidl. Too big are the budgets of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Too large, too, their personnel. Since his departure from Formula 1 ten years ago, both positions have "exploded". The proposed cost cap should be "not further softened in the negotiations by the permanent lobbying of the top teams".

Recently, Toto Wolff, head of motorsport at Mercedes, divulged that Seidl had suggested putting weight plates in Lewis Hamilton's car at a meeting of the teams. To artificially slow down the fastest, as was customary in the DTM in the past. Is that correct? Seidl smiles, thinks. Says finally that he is basically not a friend of the so-called performance weights. But if the problem of the Silberpfeildominanz not only after 2021 should be solved, then the three top teams would have to think something over. Seidl says, "We also have a responsibility to the fans."

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