Zak Brown just bought a factory tour of Red Bull Racing!

Up and down the pitlane, F1 teams rival in ingenuity to get a sneak peak at what’s going on under the skin of a competitor’s design, but McLaren’s Zak Brown wants to see where it’s all coming from.

Spy games have always been part of Formula 1, but whereas in the golden age of motorsport, before the era of closed garages or concealing screens, when an engineer would just walk up to Colin Chapman’s latest creation in the pitlane and freely eyeball the design, today’s snooping involves various ploys and tactics to gain knowledge.

Teams employ photographers who snap cars from all angles, on and off the track, while Red Bull tech boss Adrian Newey can often be seen strolling on the grid before a race, peering at anything of interest to his designer’s eyes, and sending the good people at Ferrari into a frenzy whenever he pauses for a gaze at the red cars.

But Brown has taken the gamesmanship to the next level, although it’s all for a good cause.

The Halow Project – promoted and supported by 1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill – is a charity which supports young people with learning disabilities on their journey into and through adulthood.

The charity set up an auction this week, with one of the prizes being a guided tour of Red Bull’s Milton Keynes factory by Mr. design guru himself Adrian Newey.

For Brown, the opportunity to get a glimpse into the sanctuary where it all happens for Red Bull was too good to pass up, so the McLaren boss forked out a generous amount for the privilege.

However, valuable intel will be hard to come by for Brown.

“Nothing to see there Zak, moving on…”

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McLaren 'open-minded' about relationship with Alonso

McLaren boss Zak Brown is keeping an open mind when it comes to the future of the team’s relationship with Fernando Alonso, at least where other categories than F1 are concerned.

Despite quitting F1 at the end of last year, Alonso has remained a member of the McLaren family, testing with the papaya squad in F1 earlier this year and running for the Woking-based during its ill-fated attempt to qualify for the Indy 500.

After concluding his duties with Toyota in the WEC, the Spaniard is now focused on his Dakar endeavor, but Brown said in Austin that he would soon be sitting down with Alonso to discuss potential future plans.

“At the end of this year, we’ll have a conversation about what the future may or may not look like.” Brown said. “We’ve got an IndyCar team now, we continue to look at WEC.

“We’ll sit down with Fernando at the end of the year and just talk about what does he want to do moving forward, what do we want to do moving forward, and is there something there working together that makes sense.”

©McLaren

What wouldn’t make sense for Brown would be return to F1 for Alonso, it least with McLaren. The American has now permanently ruled out that prospect, although the two-time world champion remains in Brown’s eyes one of motorsport’s greatest talents.

“You know I think he’s an immense talent,” Brown added. “I’ve got a really good relationship with him.

“I think with the different racing activities that we’re doing, if there’s something that we have that makes sense to put Fernando in a car, I still think he’s one of the fastest drivers in the world.

“We’re set with our direction in Formula 1 with our current drivers, but depending on what other activities are, very open minded continuing a relationship with Fernando.”

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McLaren's Brown shoots down cryptic Rich Energy tweet

McLaren F1 boss Zak Brown dismissed a murky tweet from Rich Energy, discarding the cryptic online message as a futile publicity stint by its author.

The energy drink company, which is no longer involved as a sponsor in F1, posted a message on Twitter on Thursday, vaunting as usual its elusive brand but attaching a series of hashtags implying links to McLaren and Renault.

As trivial as the communication appeared to be, Brown felt the need to set the record straight, insisting McLaren had no interest in even talking with Rich Energy.

“I was sent that [tweet], and the guy obviously likes to draw attention to himself,” Brown said, alluding to Rich Energy figurehead Williams Storey.

“I haven’t spoken with them. I won’t speak with them. I think that is an attempt to get some publicity.”

However, while addressing the status of McLaren’s commercial deals, Brown said the team will bring onboard new sponsors in 2020, with the Woking-based outfit terminating its deal with Brazilian oil company Petrobras at the end of this season.

Brown also shed some light on Alfa Romeo’s partnership at the US Grand Prix with McLaren sponsor Huski Chocolate, insisting the tie-up was a one-off deal and not an indication of Huski switching its F1 involvement to the Swiss outfit.

“We have a long-term contract with them,” explained Brown. “Finn Rausing [Alfa F1 team co-owner] and the owner of Huski are from the same country and they do business together.

“So there is just an existing relationship there. They have a lot of people out here this weekend, so they wanted some additional exposure.”

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Brown: IndyCar bid won't distract from McLaren's F1 momentum

McLaren CEO Zak Brown says that the Formula 1 team won’t be distracted from its ongoing resurgence by the announcement of a new US IndyCar venture.

In more than 50 years of Grand Prix competition, McLaren has picked up eight constructors championships and 12 driver titles. But the last of those was in 2008, and the last decade has seen somewhat hard times at Woking.

The squad finally appears to have turned the corner in 2019, and started to find its old form again with an all-new driver line-up consisting of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.

Brown says confirmation that McLaren is now on the right track was crucial when it came to deciding whether to branch out into full-time IndyCar racing, with a new tie-up with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced for 2020.

“Number one on the checklist when deciding when or if we go IndyCar racing is that it cannot be a distraction from Formula 1,” Brown insisted this week. “We need to have the Formula 1 on a strong foundation.

“I wouldn’t have brought IndyCar forward if I didn’t feel the two could run in parallel,” he added. “[They will] complement each other commercially, but have zero distractions to each other’s program from an on-track point of view.

“If this was 2018, I don’t think it would have been something I even brought forward, because I would have felt we weren’t ready to take on another project.”

McLaren has dabbled in IndyCar racing in recent seasons by partnering with other teams to field an Indianapolis 500 entry for Fernando Alonso. The two-time F1 world champion has been seeking to become only the second driver in history to complete the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport.

However, next year is set to be the first time that McLaren will take part in a full season of IndyCar competition since 1979. And it’s raised speculation that McLaren could also be heading back to endurance racing including a possible entry in the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race.

“Le Mans is something much like Indy that we want to go and do and we think it’s great for our automotive business,” Brown commented. “But there’s a longer lead time to get into design and manufacture the cars.

“I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s on the backburner,” he continued. “It just moves at a slower pace because it’s more complicated, in that we need to align it with our automotive business.”

Brown said that a decision on whether McLaren would return to world endurance championship racing would also depend on forthcoming decisions about the future of F1, including the introduction of proposed budget controls for 2021.

“The cost cap, we really need to take that into consideration when we get into resource allocation for the future,” Brown acknowledged. “We really need to know what the future of Formula 1 looks like to finish our analysis of a potential WEC program.”

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Brown: 'Vandoorne should have been more aggressive with us'

McLaren boss Zak Brown believes Stoffel Vandoorne should have perhaps displayed more character during his two-year stint in F1 with the Woking-based outfit.

Heralded as a bright young talent when he made the grid in 2017, Vandoorne’s failed to deliver on the team’s expectations, although the reverse also holds true given McLaren’s dismal period of under-performance, its worst in its 50-year history.

In short, the Belgian was in the right place at the wrong time, but Brown also wonders if his driver’s personality and character are suited for the fiercely competitive and cut-throat world of F1.

“Was he too corporate? No, I wouldn’t say that,” Brown said.

“He’s a very, very nice guy, but maybe he should have been a bit more aggressive with us.

“When Fernando doesn’t like something about the car, he does not hesitate to raise his voice. Maybe for Stoffel it was more difficult for him to do that in this environment.”

Fernando Alonso regards his current team mate as one of the best drivers of his generation, and the Spaniard hopes Vandoorne’s move to Formula E will be a successful one.

“Stoffel was unlucky to be with McLaren at this time, with the cars he had at his disposal in these two years,” he said, speaking to Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

“I think it’s a good thing for him to change. He won in every category he ever did, but Formula 1 is the only discipline in motor racing where talent is not enough to overcome the weaknesses of the car.”

Indeed, success in Formula E for Vandoorne would contradict the old silly saying that nice guys always finish last…

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