Who is McLaren F1 boss Andrea Stella?
After Andreas Seidl left for Sauber, McLaren is led by a little-known 51-year-old Italian engineer. Portrait of a seasoned beginner.
FIAT 500 ON THE STREETS
In a town in central Italy in the mid-1970s, a boy stood admiring the racing cars passing through the medieval streets of his town:
“In Orvieto, where I was born, we organized a hill race with beautiful Fiat 500s modified and decorated in all colors. He remembers McLaren’s new team principal. This kind of vision leaves a deep mark on a child’s imagination, I think I have also seen it.”
It was a strong impression that led Andrea Stella to study aerospace engineering at the prestigious Sapienza University in Rome: “When I read the CVs of people working in Formula 1, I noticed that almost all of them came from aerospace engineering. So I went that route, but when I started I had to keep reading…and I still do!”
Like a good Italian, the reserved Andrea began his career at Ferrari, first in the test team (when Fiorano worked the red cars every day), then alongside three World Champions: Michael Schumacher (as performance engineer from 2002-2004). ), then Kimi Raikkonen (as a performance engineer in 2009, then as a race engineer) and finally Fernando Alonso (as a race engineer from 2010-2014).
“Michael was a great driver, very solid in the race and very strong in handling the back of the car. explained the engineer a few years ago. Although he could be a bit aggressive in the race at times, he was very talented in this field.
“When the car was in a certain window, Kimi was very fast. In these conditions, he could be the fastest. But when the car wasn’t in the right operating window, it had to work hard to find the optimal configuration. Moreover, he preferred visual communication over discussion. Spending three hours in a meeting with him was useless. It would be better to make a graphic with a clear message underlining important information. Compared to Michael, who liked to make decisions based on logical, deductive criteria, Kimi had a more intuitive approach based on his own beliefs or perceptions.
“As for Fernando, I would say that his strength is that he has no weakness! It is strong in all conditions from dry to extreme rain at the wheel. Outside the car, he is very consistent and mentally strong, which is very important in modern F1.
… AND DIRECTORS
After fifteen years of whispering in the ears of Maranello drivers, Stella left for McLaren in 2015 as Head of Racing Operations alongside Alonso. He was then appointed performance director and led the successful MCL34 project with Pat Fry before James Key arrived at Woking as technical director in 2018. The engineer, who has been the Executive Race Director since 2019, has deep knowledge in this field design and the running of F1 is a rare and insignificant experience.
If he is a respected engineer in the paddock and a fine connoisseur of drivers, Stella today trains at Woking in a position far removed from his previous attributions, inexperienced and unprepared. .
Indeed, his surprise appointment is more of a carefully thought-out promotion than the snap decision made by Zak Brown following the unexpected departure of Andreas Seidl to Sauber. The early transfer of the latter is a heavy loss for the British team, which has been rebuilt around the German engineer for 4 years.
However, Andrea Stella has collaborated with several different managers over the seasons and will draw inspiration from them and motivate the Woking troops:
“You learn from everybody, that’s my philosophy, especially when you’re working with strong personalities. For example, Jean Todt’s attachment to Ferrari showed me what it means to be involved. His imprint on my F1 career was early.
“Stefano, who replaced him, is a very sociable person. But while F1 is about engineering, it is ultimately about people. By observing him, I was able to identify the qualities a team leader should possess, but also a way of getting along with others based on respect, listening, and good ego management.”
“Andreas is, after all, my closest collaborator. What I learned from our collaboration is that you have to master your subject, know the technical, engineering, operational aspects, etc. This acute knowledge is a prerequisite for effectively supporting your troops.”
A HEALTHY LEADER AT McLaren
At the time, Seidl himself highlighted Stella’s leadership role in rebuilding McLaren, the second most successful team in Grand Prix history (with 183 wins):
“Andrea and Pat [Fry] played an important role in the implementation of changes. In 2019, the German manager explained. It’s one thing to understand what the problems are, it’s quite another to find people who can solve them. Zach figured this out by having Andrea and Pat design the car until James arrived.
Undoubtedly, the contrast between McLaren’s confidence in its new leader and the general public’s skepticism about him is partly explained by the Italian’s reserved personality. Not a star, but an escapist, Stella has a collective sense of:
“The pilot is the main character, but he knows he can’t do much on his own. He can make the difference, but never alone. It only takes one poor pass to miss the target in F1. Everyone should be strong.”
So the shy Stella will have to push herself a bit to embody the personality of the McLaren F1, even with the help of Zach Brown on the political strategy and commercial aspects:
“I think my style will be a hands-on team manager. Throughout my career I have worked on engineering and racing. From this point of view, I will be close to the main goals of the team, which is to develop a fast car and use it effectively on the track. Plus, my profile and Zach’s profile complement each other. We form a strong combination.”
“Our goal is to design and build a faster car. We still have some structural constraints to overcome, such as not having our own wind tunnel. We have to do our own simulation in Germany [dans la soufflerie dépassée de Toyota]. We also have a shortage of personnel, the recruitment process is underway.”
“Furthermore, Formula 1 teams can become money-making machines. Today, the stable has a market value, and we should work in this direction as well. We can be more competitive on all fronts.”
While waiting for McLaren to have a modern infrastructure, the new boss will have to manage Woking’s clockwork orange. And if successful, Brown will erect a monument to Stella.