The sudden outbreak of a December ‘silly season’ for team principals left four Formula 1 outfits scrambling to find replacements. McLaren were the quickest to name their new leader, immediately replacing the departing Andreas Seidl with Andrea Stella.
Their job was made easier by the fact Stella already occupied one of their most senior roles: executive director of racing. In that position he was one of three members of the management team, reporting to on-site leaders of CEO Zak Brown and Seidl.
Brown confirmed Stella’s experience with McLaren and another of F1’s top teams made him the number one candidate to replace Seidl.
“Andrea obviously has a wealth of experience, not only with McLaren, but a rich history with Ferrari,” he told media including RaceFans today.
“So he’s someone that, we knew, knew the team inside out, is a very hands-on person in the racing team [It] was of high interest to me and the shareholders to have someone leading the team that gets their hands dirty, so to speak.”
Stella is moving into a leadership role for the first time with his promotion to team principal, but he’s already got a vast amount of experience in F1 and taken on jobs with cross-company responsibilities since graduating from Sapienza University of Rome with a degree in Aerospace Engineering over 22 years ago.
He stayed in his home country for his first taste of F1 work, joining Ferrari’s test team in 2000 as a performance engineer. Having impressed with the test team, come 2002 he was given that same role on race weekends and worked on Mick Schumacher’s car for five seasons.
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When Schumacher left the team at the end of 2006 he was replaced by Kimi Raikkonen. Stella became his performance engineer and was promoted to the role of race engineer to Raikkonen in 2009. He continued in that role with his successor Fernando Alonso, who he accompanied to McLaren in 2015.
McLaren signed Stella to be their head of race operations, and promoted him to be performance director in 2018. At the end of the 2019 season he was moved into a new position which he held until Seidl’s departure.
Stella admitted he had “been reluctant” to take on a more public-facing role at McLaren “so it needed a bit of thought” to accept the promotion to team principal. Brown said he will “lean in more” to support Stella in, for example, commercial matters with the team and increased media commitments. That will not be a complete departure for McLaren, as Brown frequently appears in media sessions at grands prix.
Besides working closely with several champion drivers of recent decades, Stella has also had the opportunity to learn from other successful team principals, notably Ferrari’s Jean Todt. Stella remarked that Todt’s “incredible dedication to the team and to his role” at Ferrari left an imprint on him of the commitment required to lead an F1 team.
He described Todt’s successor Stefano Domenicali as “a people person” whose leadership style helped Stella understand how to improve his own way of working with other people in a team.
His predecessor in charge at McLaren has also won admiration for the improvements made at the team during him time as team principal, despite their slip from third in the championship to fifth over the last two seasons. Stella said he had “worked if anything more closely” with Seidl than any other team principal.
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“He also brought some engineering experience from previous experience, so I think this was very useful for me also in shaping up the race team, making progress in some of the areas like pit stops. When we talk about the progress made in terms of pit stops by McLaren, I would like to pay tribute to Andreas’ input, from that point of view.”
Stella said he will be a “hands-on kind of team principal” and taking on “the importance of knowing the business, the importance of knowing even the technical and engineering operational aspects” that he learned from Seidl so that he can “coach people [and] support people in a more effective way to make progress” as a team.
Brown revealed that Seidl originally intended to leave at the end of the 2025 season. But following a request from Sauber and after checking with Stella that he was ready to take over the team principal role, Brown agreed to make the change in time for next year. While McLaren will feel the impact of losing Seidl’s experience, Stella feels well prepared to on the challenge.
“I’ve been dealing with and exposed to the engineering and racing elements of F1 throughout my career,” added Stella. “And I will be close to the core objectives of the team, which ultimately is to build a quick car and race this car effectively while on track.
“If I may say, I think there’s really strong elements of integration and combination between my characteristics and Zak. So I think this creates a very strong combination.”
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