McLaren CEO Zak Brown says closing the gap to the Formula 1 leaders is his team’s primary goal in 2021, as he ruled out any potential title challenge for the year ahead amid its resurgence.
The Woking-based squad enjoyed a strong 2020 campaign, ending the year third in the Constructors’ Championship, which marked its best result since 2012.
McLaren’s impressive form over the last two years has seen it escape from the difficult circumstances it found itself in during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when it was consistently competing in the lower half of the field.
But despite the promising progress McLaren has made, Brown says the focus for 2021 is continuing to close the gap to Mercedes, who remain undefeated in Championship fights since 2014.
“The field is unbelievably close, but challenging for the championship would be unrealistic given the journey that we are on,” Brown said.
“I think all we can hope for, and are striving for, is to close the gap to Mercedes, who we anticipate to be the fastest team again in 2021.
“The rules haven’t changed significantly, so I don’t think that 2021 will look much different from 2020 for the entire grid, other than expecting it to get yet even closer.
“We went into Abu Dhabi [in 2020] with the ability to finish third, fourth or fifth, and I think it’s that close and anticipate it being even closer this year.
“So, all we can really do is key off who is the fastest team and hope that we close the gap, but short of that it’s too competitive to give any sort of prediction.”
Brown added that as well as bridging the gap to the front of the field, McLaren would like to end the year as Mercedes’ strongest customer team, as it will likely face stiff competition from Aston Martin.
“We’re going to keep our eyes in all the competition, it would be naïve to underestimate any of the competition that was so close last year,” Brown asserted.
“So, our goal is to close the gap to the front, we’re not focused on a particular team or on who’s got what Power Unit.
“We want to be the best of the customer teams but the one target in mind is to close the gap to the front of the field.”
McLaren launched its 2021 car, labelled the MCL35M, on Monday at its Technology Centre in Woking.