F1 Silly Season Gets Sillier: McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl Quits to Take on New Challenge

Seidl takes position with Sauber Group ahead of its move to Audi, as Formula 1 game of musical chairs adds more layers.

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  • Andreas Seidl joined McLaren as team principal in 2019.
  • He replaces new Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur in the role of CEO of the entire Sauber Group.
  • Sauber, currently competing as Alfa Romeo, has yet to announce its new F1 team principal.
  • Andrea Stella becomes the new team principal at McLaren.

    Andreas Seidl has left McLaren and his position there of team principal to take up a CEO role at Sauber Group ahead of its Formula 1 partnership with Audi.

    Seidl joined McLaren as team principal in 2019 but after four years at the helm will join Sauber, currently competing as Alfa Romeo, in January.

    f1 abu dhabi grand prix
    Andreas Seidl, right, and McLaren Racing CEO Zack Brown
    NurPhotoGetty Images

    He replaces new Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur in the role of CEO of the entire Sauber Group. He will not, however, take the team principal position of its Formula 1 team, as Sauber is due to hire another individual for that role.

    McLaren, meanwhile has appointed Andrea Stella as its new Formula 1 team principal in place of Seidl. Stella joined McLaren in 2015 after 15 years at Ferrari and has most recently acted as the team’s executive director of racing.

    How Did the Situation Develop?

    It is a highly unusual situation in Formula 1 for four teams to be involved in a change of senior personnel in the space of just 24 hours.

    Three of them are connected—the timing of Williams splitting from its team principal Jost Capito and technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison on Monday is unrelated to the sequence of events involving the other teams.

    It was effectively triggered by matters accelerating at Ferrari which led to the resignation of Mattia Binotto last month.

    Ferrari considered several possible candidates, understood to have included Red Bull boss Christian Horner and McLaren chief Seidl, before zeroing in on Vasseur. The Frenchman was excited by the prospect of taking the role and his strong relationship with Sauber owner Finn Rausing meant the company did not stand in the way of his ambition, enabling a deal to be concluded.

    As that developed, Sauber ramped up its negotiations with Seidl. He had already informed McLaren earlier in the year that he intended to take up a new project elsewhere once his contract expired in 2025.

    McLaren CEO Zak Brown praised Seidl for doing this “in a very transparent manner” and Rausing requested whether the German could be released early from his contract. Brown quickly established Stella as his preferred replacement for Seidl and he agreed to take up the role of McLaren’s team principal, freeing Seidl to link up early with Sauber.

    “I know a lot of teams play the gardening leave card,” said Brown of Seidl joining Sauber in January. “But I think as we’ve demonstrated at McLaren, there are ways to dissolve a relationship, whether that’s with racing drivers, or employees, where you can do things on very workable terms for everyone.”

    Seidl thanked Brown “and the shareholders for their understanding of my personal decision to move on to another challenge.”

    Seidl at Sauber

    Seidl’s signing is a major coup by Sauber as it looks to the next chapter of its existence, with Audi’s arrival looming on the horizon.

    Sauber’s current existence in Formula 1 as Alfa Romeo is merely a commercial branding exercise but it will morph into Audi’s fully-fledged factory team when the German manufacturer joins Formula 1 in 2026.

    As McLaren team principal, Seidl rejuvenated an outfit that had reached its lowest ebb, recognized where the squad needed to improve, and put long-term plans into place. On-track, McLaren re-emerged as a midfield leader, taking a win in 2021 and further podiums in each of his seasons in charge. It had a mixed 2022, slipping to fifth overall, but the focus for McLaren remains longer term, with 2025 earmarked as the year when its recent investments should begin to pay off.

    f1 grand prix of abu dhabi practice
    It’s been a busy offseason at McLaren, which saw both driver Daniel Ricciardo and now team principal Andreas Seidl move on.
    Bryn Lennon - Formula 1Getty Images

    It gives Seidl recent experience of what does—and doesn’t—work at a growing Formula 1 team, while at Sauber he has a strong platform on which to build courtesy of the work undertaken by predecessor Vasseur in the six years since his arrival and the company’s acquisition in 2016 by billionaire Finn Rausing.

    Seidl’s leadership will extend to the wider Sauber Group, meaning his new job is in effect a promotion, and one of his first tasks will be headhunting a team principal for its Formula 1 team. But the Formula 1 project is at the heart of Sauber’s activities.

    Sauber/Alfa Romeo enjoyed its best season in almost a decade in 2022, finishing sixth overall, and that prize money will aid its progress. An increase in sponsors, allied to Audi’s arrival from 2026, means Sauber is set to compete at the cost cap limit for the first time.

    Seidl, who previously worked at Sauber as an engineer in the late 2000s, also has knowledge of German corporate structures. He headed BMW’s DTM project before moving over to spearhead the ultra-successful Le Mans project of Porsche, which is also under the Volkswagen Group of which Audi is a part. Audi has grand ambitions for its Formula 1 program and ensuring various factions—most notably its engine plant in Germany and the current Sauber base in Switzerland where the chassis will continue to be constructed—work harmoniously will be crucial for its hoped-for success.

    It was noteworthy that Audi responded to Seidl’s hire by Sauber with its own separate statement.

    “We welcome our future partner’s choice,” commented Oliver Hoffmann, Audi’s chief technical officer. “Andreas has extensive experience in leadership roles across motorsport programs on both the manufacturer and Formula 1 team side. His track record in motorsport is impressive.”

    New Face at McLaren

    f1 grand prix of belgium practice
    Andrea Stella is the new team principal with the McLaren F1 race team.
    Mark ThompsonGetty Images

    Stella is a senior figure in Formula 1, having joined Ferrari during its golden title-winning years in the early 2000s. He was Performance Engineer for Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen at Ferrari, before becoming Fernando Alonso’s race engineer.

    At McLaren he has held senior roles related to the race team, which was one of McLaren’s main strengths in 2022, displaying some of the fastest pit stops.

    Promoting from within will allow Stella to continue the work begun by Seidl as McLaren aims to emerge as a title contender by 2025.

    “I think where we definitely would like to make a step forward is delivering a quick car,” said Stella. “Some of the reasons why we haven’t been able to do that so far, we know they are quite structural, and there’s really good actions and investments going on at McLaren, so we can overcome these limitations. We have important infrastructure coming in 2023, like the wind tunnel, the new simulator, so completing this business is certainly one of my priorities.”

    Brown said he never looked elsewhere once it was clear Seidl would be leaving for 2023.

    “The response I’ve had from the racing team about Andrea’s appointment has been predictably very well received,” said Brown. “And I think as we try and build a team to get back to competing for the world championships it has to be a team effort, and this feels like we won’t miss a beat versus introducing someone from the outside because it takes quite a way to get up to speed. If we didn’t have Andrea that maybe would have been an alternative to look at, but it was very clear to us very quickly that Andrea was who we wanted to have run the team.”

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