McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown was surprised by how quickly Andrea Stella was able to make an impact after taking over as team principal this year.

Stella was promoted into the position of team principal after Andreas Seidl moved to Sauber to prepare for Audi’s arrival in 2026, replacing Ferrari-bound Fred Vasseur. Although McLaren started the season poorly, Stella made structural changes early in his tenure, while car development helped the team to fight for regular podiums and threaten for pole positions in the second half of the season. Brown admitted he had not expected such a rapid turnaround.

“He is a very nice guy, which is why I think people like working with him,” Brown said. “I call him ‘The Swan’. He looks like a nice guy, cruising above the water, but underneath, he’s paddling fast. He’s very tough, he’s very professional, very articulate in his delivery, kind of like your guys experience when he talks to you.

“He’s not political at all. He’s not ego at all. And I think yes, I’m pleasantly surprised, not at what he’s brought to the table, but how quickly he’s had the impact that he’s had because I think we all see that the turnaround has been pretty awesome.

“A big moment for me was when he stated in Austria – that was a bit unlike him, to call his shot. And he got it right. He knows he’s not afraid to lay it out there, and make some bold predictions without them being over the top predictions. He kind of just calls it as he sees it.”

Brown feels one of the most impressive aspects about Stella’s leadership has been how it led to greater contributions from other key members within the team, as former technical director James Key was the only major departure announced in the past year.

“I think the impressive thing is that it’s the same people, but it’s a different team,” he said. “It’s a different team because of the leadership of Andrea. His work ethic, his communication skills, his demand for performance, he has a great ability to look at commentary from his team through their lens. So these are all just great leadership qualities, he just happens to be running a Formula 1 team.

“He sets a very clear direction. He has very high expectations. He has great follow-through and a tremendous amount of empowerment. So when he restructured the technical structure, I think initially it was a bit, ‘how do you have three technical directors?’ And I think his view was, he’s actually what you’d call a technical team principal, so one could argue he almost… what does a technical director do? He facilitates, he brings together all the great technical expertise to set a direction, which does.

“So he empowered Pete Prodromou to lead aero, Neil Houdley, and obviously we’re bringing in Rob Marshall and David Sanchez. He’s been able to get the most out of the talent we have, because it’s the same people, and the same technology, because the same wind tunnel and simulator and stuff is here now, that has nothing to do with our Austria-onward upgrade.

“The same people that gave us the car for Bahrain have given us the car the second half of the year. The only difference is, a new team principal, a new technical director structure, and a new head of aero. Everyone else has been the same people with the same tools that have . Piers has had a big role. And everyone has stepped up. And he’s led by example.”