McLaren CEO Zak Brown acknowledged in an interview Thursday that the Formula 1 team he heads has problems that he does not expect to see resolved for years.
The team's problems range from its overgrown managerial structure (which is undergoing a slimming) to its car—the MCL33—which Brown says produces less downforce than last year's car, the MCL32.
McLaren said in late 2017 that it was confident in its MCL32, and an anonymous employee was even quoted as having said the team could finish on the podium with an engine more competitive than its Honda power unit. Brown is less outspoken about the MCL32 now than some within his organization were then.
"Did we have the best chassis last year? No, definitely not," Brown said in an interview with Autosport. "Did we have probably a better chassis? I think because of all the different variables it would be hard to definitively say yes or no, but we know we have less downforce this year than last year."
He also conceded that between the team's management problems and troubled car design that rejoining the sport's frontrunners will take an indeterminate amount of time—years, likely.
"Realistically, this is going to take some time to fix, so I think we are years away," stated Brown. "I don't know if that's two or 10 or somewhere in between, probably more like somewhere in between, but I don't want to get into predictions."
The now lengthened timeline toward McLaren's success may have ramifications for the team's number one driver, Fernando Alonso. The double world champion is now in his fourth season of driving win-incapable McLarens, and at age 36, the end of his Formula 1 career approaches.
Some speculate that without a competitive seat available, Alonso could retire from Formula 1 and chase the Triple Crown of Motorsport, the second component of which he collected in June with his Le Mans win. Only the Indianapolis 500 (which Alonso entered in 2017) remains on this journey, and he has played with a full-time Indycar entry, leading many believe Alonso's destination after his Formula 1 career concludes to be Indycar.
With McLaren effectively ruling out near-future competitiveness, Alonso's Indycar decision may be hastened, should no better options in Formula 1 present themselves.