There’s a Stella (‘star’ in Italian) who is making the new McLaren soar. It’s not just the one that marks the Mercedes power unit, which was defeated in the home race at the Silverstone circuit last week (things went even worse for Scuderia Ferrari: they were outclassed), but a real person named Andrea. He arrived at Woking in 2015 with a strong red aura, following Fernando Alonso, for whom he had been a track engineer at Maranello after working with Kimi Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher.
Hailing from Orvieto in Umbria, 52 years old, and a graduate of Sapienza University of Rome in aerospace engineering with a thesis on propeller wakes elaborated at the Hydrodynamic Experimentation Center of the Italian Navy, Andrea Stella is the latest of the great technicians who grew up at Ferrari (starting in 2000, initially in the test team and personally following Valentino Rossi’s adventure in 2006) and were sent away, escaped, or expelled (you decide), only to find success elsewhere. Aldo Costa and James Allison at Mercedes, or Stefano Domenicali, who at least brings success to everyone as the CEO of Formula 1.
Stella’s role in McLaren
Andrea Stella, who has climbed all the ranks at McLaren (performance director in 2018, racing director in 2020, team principal this year), is the key and concrete figure for the historic team that, despite its many years without success (last championship in 2008 with Lewis Hamilton, consecutive wins in 2012), is still striving for its past glory (8 Constructors’ Championships, 12 Drivers’ Championships) despite having wealthy owners (25% owned by Saudi Mansour Ojjeh, 75% owned by the Bahraini sovereign fund) and the creative marketing efforts of the new CEO, Zak Brown. It is worth listening to Andrea Stella, with his extreme pragmatism after the magical weekend at Silverstone, where Lando Norris finished 2nd and Oscar Piastri 4th (a double podium was missed due to the safety car), thanks to the innovations that many see as a copy of Red Bull’s, but have transformed a struggling team (with a nightmarish start) into a rocket.
Stella praises McLaren
“We are amazed by ourselves,” admits Amdrea Stella. “We knew we had improved the car, but we didn’t expect it to be this much. We discovered it in Austria (with Lando Norris as the only one using the upgrades and finishing 4th), and the further updates we brought to Silverstone also worked. So we are heading in the right direction and have worked efficiently. Now we are enjoying this moment: at McLaren, we went through a difficult period, and I’m happy for all the men and women who work here.” Whether it’s just a flash in the pan or a real turning point will be determined by the upcoming races, starting with Budapest, on a “different” track (slower). “We will find out where we stand,” says Andrea Stella. “Austria and Silverstone were favorable tracks for our car, which generates significant downforce and performs well in cooler conditions. Let’s say it’s more ‘English,’ and my task is to make it more ‘Latin’… so that it remains competitive even in the heat.” – the former Ferrari man pointed out at the end of the British Grand Prix.
McLaren and Stella’s imapact
But there is no doubt that Andrea Stella has already made a significant impact with the drivers, all young and exuberant (Lando Norris as the idol, Oscar Piastri snatched from Alpine, and even reserve driver Alex Palou, recruited from IndyCar), and a growing team. Andrea envisions a team that is full of genius and creativity, fresh and young. A kind of new Red Bull. It’s something that Ferrari cannot (and will never) achieve.
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“There is a fundamental element to my role, and it is the fact that Formula 1 is becoming increasingly vast and complex,” he reflects in an interview with FormulaPassion. “Today we have three interrelated regulations: technical, sporting, and financial. Then there are partners, sponsors, media… Even in terms of leadership, it makes sense to have more than one person to cover all aspects. Zak Brown and I integrate well: I focus more on the technical aspects and internal team relationships, while he focuses on commercial aspects and the overall strategies of McLaren Racing. But ultimately, it was the same in the past when there was Todt, Ross Brawn, and Montezemolo working as a single entity at Ferrari. Even today, if you don’t have a team principal with a technical background, you need someone with that kind of authority.” – he explained.
Mattia Binotto at McLaren?
There seems to be an opening for Mattia Binotto, which may not be a coincidence as he reappeared in the paddock on Friday at Silverstone after a nine-month absence, just before the end of his gardening leave following the break with the Prancing Horse (which was not at all Rampant). This is in addition to the already announced arrivals of David Sanchez, the first Ferrari defector under Fred Vasseur’s management, and Rob Marshall, Adrian Newey’s protégé lured away from Red Bull.
“We needed to trigger a new phase, which started by reorganizing the technical and aerodynamic departments. These were the two most important steps, but changes continue to happen,” smiles Andrea Stella, who praises David Sanchez as “one of the most interesting and creative personalities in Formula 1” and who had been sidelined at Ferrari. Stella believes in McLaren; he has a vision. “We want to be part of the leading group by the end of this season, repeating these recent results consistently. That’s why we are aggressive in development, part of which will be focused on the 2024 project. Then we aim to regularly reach the podium and, in 2025, even the top step…”