JANUARY 8, 2024

McLaren expands hiring spree

McLaren’s impressive recovery during the 2023 season, with two major upgrades – the first introduced in Austria, the second one in Singapore – transforming the MCL60 into the second quickest car in the field after starting the year at the back of the grid – has given reason to optimism inside the Woking-based team now looking ahead at the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship.

Oscar Piastri, Italian GP 2023
© McLaren

Even before the recovery made under Andrea Stella’s guidance started, the Italian had already been able to attract two big names to join McLaren from the start of this year, so last Tuesday, new Technical Director of Car Concept and Performance, David Sanchez, and new Technical Director of Engineer and Design, veteran Rob Marshall, have officially joined the team and started working from Woking.

While the two man have arrived from Ferrari and Red Bull, respectively, too late to have an impact on the design of the 2024 car, they’ll still be able to help with its development, although it’s clear that their first priority is to start the project of the 2026 car, that will be design and built to completely new Technical Regulations, immediately, as next year’s cars, for all teams, are expected to be just small upgrades of the ones we’ll see during the coming season, as teams will focus their resources on the brand new cars they’ll have to come up with for the new rules.

But McLaren’s hiring drive is not only focused on the design office and late last year the team quietly made an important acquisition, hiring Frenchman Antoine Okla, a man whose name says nothing to Formula 1 fans but comes with a tremendous reputation from the junior formulas and is also well known to McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who worked with him during his very successful Formula 2 campaign in 2021.

Still in his early 30’s Okla started his career in motor racing with Frédéric Vasseur’s ART Grand Prix back in 2013 and after two years with the team he moved to DAMS, helping Jolyon Palmer win the GP2 title. In Jean-Paul Driot’s team he also worked with future Formula 1 drivers Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi, before moving to Prema, where he stayed for the following five years.

In the Italian team Okla helped Mick Schumacher win the 2020 Formula 2 championship, repeating the feat one year later with Australia’s Oscar Piastri. With Prema also moving into Sports Cars, Oka accumulated the role of Chief Race Engineer in Formula 2 and in the ELMS series, winning the championship in Sports Cars and working with Oliver Bearman in Formula 2.

The Frenchman has now moved up to Formula 1 and joined McLaren in the role of Trackside tyre performance engineer, so he’ll be a key person during the Grand Prix weekends and will work closely with the two drivers and their race engineers. Given his impressive CV, the hiring of Okla may have been another inspired move from Andrea Stella, a man who works quietly but very efficiently and seems to have a good eye to spot talent in all areas of motor racing.