“No one better”: Norris has full confidence in McLaren’s new man at the helm

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The name ‘Andrea Stella’ may have been unfamiliar to many fans when he was announced as McLaren’s new team principal back in December – but not many figures in Formula 1 have a CV quite like Stella’s.

The new leader of McLaren’s F1 team has earned his new position after joining the team in 2015. His previous roles include head of race operations, performance director and executive director for racing.

His position within McLaren has largely kept him out of the spotlight – until now. His appointment as team principal came after Andreas Seidl stepped away to become chief executive of Sauber Group, in anticipation of Audi’s arrival in 2026.

Stella was a logical appointment for the team. His experience of the F1 world includes a lengthy spell at another top team: Ferrari. He joined McLaren as Fernando Alonso returned to them, and although this will be his first year as team principal, he has two decades of F1 experience under his belt.

Seidl’s departure was not part of McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s plan for re-establishing the team as a championship-winning force. Nonetheless, he says Stella was the “number one option” after his predecessor quit.

Stella was the man in Alonso’s ear at Ferrari
The change was announced just before Christmas, with testing only a few months away. Speaking to media including RaceFans at the launch of their new car this week, Brown described the changeover as “very seamless – the change happened effectively overnight and Andrea settled in the next morning.”

McLaren isn’t the only team to have needed a new team principal since last season ended, and Brown is clear they preferred to promote from within. “Obviously he’s very aware of the team, he’s worked very closely with all of them, being here almost a decade,” he said. “So it was exactly who we wanted to have run the racing team.”

However, Brown admitted Stella did consider his options before signing on the dotted line. “Once Andrea slept on it a little bit, we hit the ground running,” he said. “It’s been a continuation from where we left off.”

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Stella, whose Formula 1 career started as a performance engineer for Ferrari in 2000, has worked with some of F1’s greatest drivers, including Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. But he admits there is a lot for him still to learn.

Following Alonso to McLaren, Stella endured some tough years
“The points of strength of this transition, the first one is the knowledge of the team on my side,” began Stella. “And the second one, some important projects they had already been started before. You are obviously stepping into the role of team principal compared to what I was doing before.

“I have to learn much more about the technical side and the manufacturing side. In general, getting all of these areas to work as efficiently as possible. We are totally focused on performance.

“How do you achieve it? You achieve it by having many, many conversations. You need to know the place inside out. Assess this together with the people, get the people on the same page, state the mission, and get everyone to understand it and then start to work on implementing the plan.

“So [there’s] elements of continuity which are good to start from. But then obviously you need to go into a lot of details when it comes to implementing this.”

His promotion comes at a tricky time for McLaren. The team finished third in the championship in 2020, dropped to fourth in 2021, then fell to fifth in 2022 after struggling to get to grips with the new regulations brought into F1. They conspicuously failed to get the best from big-named signing Daniel Ricciardo, who was ditched with a year left to run on his contract in favour of rookie Oscar Piastri.

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It’s up to Stella to continue McLaren’s rebuilding into a championship-winning team which Seidl began. Seidl took over from Éric Boullier after McLaren suffered one of their worst slumps in its Formula 1 history. The team finished ninth in the constructors championship in 2017.

Lando Norris has full belief in his new leader
From there, the peak of third under Seidl represented a significant improvement. Lando Norris says his former team boss “did a very good job with what you see now, with what you see McLaren being currently.”

“The change from the past is the structure we have within the McLaren Technology Centre, the atmosphere,” Norris continued. “Andreas did play a very good role and has been a team manager of many teams and a very successful team. He did play a big part and I think that [it’s] big shoes for Andrea to fill.”

Norris has only driven under Seidl at McLaren during his F1 career, and much has been made of whether he would like to follow his former boss to Audi one day. But Norris insists he has “no lack of confidence” in McLaren following the change at the top.

“Maybe [he will have] a different mindset and a different way of going about things, but from the people that I know there is no one better, I would say, to be his successor and to take over the role that Andreas had,” Norris affirmed.

“I have full trust in what he’s capable of doing and can also bring a different perspective. He’s a guy who was a race engineer so he also sees and understands things very much from a racing point of view as an individual, as Andreas did in many ways. From what he’s done, you know he’s not been in the position very long, but he’s done a very good job with boosting the team, making sure that morale is up, especially so early on in the season. Giving a very clear and concise plan for combating our issues, and our weaknesses and improving in all of these areas.

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“From the feedback I’ve got from people around the factory, he has settled in very quickly and people are very happy with the job and the feedback that he’s given. No lack of confidence or whatever. I’m very happy with how things are. It’s a bit of a surprise at the time, I won’t lie, but we will still see him around.”

Stella has seen what it takes to win, enjoying championship glory during his time at Ferrari. He has also seen the rough end of team life, particularly in the difficult McLaren-Honda years, and what it took to turn that around and make the team race-winners again.

McLaren are still in the rebuilding stage. Hiring from within was a logical choice, and how quickly Stella finds his feet will partly be a test of the foundations laid down by Seidl over the past few years. But it will be on the new man’s shoulders to elevate the team to its former status as regular grand prix winners once again.

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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2 comments on ““No one better”: Norris has full confidence in McLaren’s new man at the helm”

  1. Who cares about the figure heads? It’s the embarrassing engineering group at McLaren that’s the issue.

  2. To me, he’s most familiar as Alonso’s race engineer from his Ferrari seasons, which featured some memorable comms, including Italian use on occasions.

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