McLaren F1 announced a major personnel move on Tuesday, one that is likely to send shockwaves through the paddock at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. Rob Marshall will join McLaren as the team’s Technical Director, Engineering & Design, at the start of 2024.
Marshall has spent the past 17 years with Red Bull, most recently as the team’s Chief Engineering Officer, a role he was promoted to in 2016.
McLaren announced the move on Tuesday on their website.
“I am incredibly pleased that Rob will be joining McLaren. With over 25 years working in motorsport, Rob comes to us with a wealth of expertise and experience, elevated by his tenure and track record at Red Bull Racing,” said McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella. “Rob’s appointment is one of the fundamental steps and a natural fit to aid the team’s journey to get back to our winning ways.”
Marshall, along with Red Bull Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey and the team’s former Head of Aerodynamics Dan Fallows, helped Red Bull narrow the gap to Mercedes, building towards their recent run of success. Marshall was also part of the team that designed the RB19, which has been the class of the field this season.
Fallows, however, made a move to Aston Martin prior to this season, and is in part responsible for the AMR23, the car which has put Fernando Alonso and company in a position to perhaps challenge Red Bull at the top of the table.
The design of the AMR23, and its similarity to the RB19, even led to some quips from Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner this season. Following the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw two Red Bulls and an Aston Martin on the podium, Horner had this to say: “So, they’ve obviously done a good job over the winter. They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery, and it’s good to see the old car going so well.”
“And I think that it’s flattering to see the resemblance of that car to ours, so it was great to see the three of them on the podium,” he added.
Now McLaren is hoping for a similar developmental curve.
“We are a team with the ambition of fighting for championships, but over the last couple of seasons we have not shown a steady upward trend from an on-track competitiveness point of view. Over the last few months, we have worked towards inverting this trend. The approach we have adopted is comprehensive and is based on strengthening the team from a people and expertise point of view, along with the ongoing projects to upgrade technology and infrastructure that will shortly come to fruition,” said Stella, adding “…the addition of a high-end and skilled individual like Rob will further consolidate our ability to establish the highest technical standards at McLaren and be in condition to design winning F1 cars.”
The addition of Marshall is not the only personnel change McLaren has announced in recent months. Earlier this season, the team restructured their personnel department, creating a new Technical Executive Team with three Technical Director roles and moving away from a single Executive Technical Director model.
At the time of that announcement, McLaren CEO Zak Brown pointed to a lack of technical development.
“It’s important now that we ensure we have a solid foundation as the next phase of our journey. It has been clear to me for some time that our technical development has not moved at a quick enough pace to match our ambition of returning to the front of the grid,” said Brown. “I’m pleased that, having completed a full review with Andrea, we are now able to implement the restructure required to set the wheels in motion to turn this around.”
As for whether this addition leads to the technical improvements McLaren are hoping for, at least one F1 analyst believes so. Lawrence Barretto, who does a tremendous job covering the sport for F1.com, shared his thoughts after the news on social media:
Big scoop for McLaren recruiting Rob Marshall from Red Bull. He led engineering there, and has spent 17 years with the multiple world champions. A great addition to technical team at McLaren that will have strength and depth #F1
— Lawrence Barretto (@lawrobarretto) May 30, 2023
Now McLaren can hope for their own Aston Martin-like rise up the table starting in 2024.