Interview: McLaren F1 boss Zak Brown "excited but nervous" for 2021

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BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says he is excited but nervous ahead of a 2021 Formula 1 season that will be "too close to call".

One of the most storied and successful teams in F1 history, McLaren has struggled for much of the past decade, after an ill-fated partnership with Honda came to an early end following a disastrous series of results.

Since switching to Renault power in 2018, McLaren has steadily risen up the grid, emerging at the head of a very congested midfield to finish third in the 2020 constructors' championship, and Brown told Xinhua that he expected a similarly close fight in 2021.

"I think 2021 is going to look a lot like 2020," Brown said. "All those teams in third to seventh took a turn at being the third-quickest team at some point over the year, so I think it's going to be unbelievably competitive."

The American added, "We could find ourselves closer to [championship winners] Mercedes, which is what we hope to accomplish, but slipping to fifth in the championship, so it's going to be too close to call. Where will we finish? Who knows, but I'm confident we'll have a good year."

A planned switch to Mercedes power for 2021 was due to coincide with a major regulation change for F1, but following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport's powerbrokers have elected to delay the introduction of new regulations until 2022, with teams obliged to compete in 2021 with updated versions of their 2020 cars.

The restrictions for this year mean that McLaren will have to incorporate the Mercedes power unit into a chassis originally designed around a Renault. Combined with a further reduction in permitted pre-season testing and the need to quickly incorporate new driver Daniel Ricciardo, Brown acknowledged the difficulties that the relative lack of continuity may present.

"Any time you're making a substantial change, you run the risk of reliability and installation [issues], and just understanding the transition. Compounding that with the reduction in testing, we are excited but also nervous that we're going into the season with the least amount of time we're allowed to prepare on track. It's not ideal, but I feel we're well prepared."

Brown also offered his thoughts on the future of Formula 1 itself, with former champion Jenson Button last week adding his voice to a growing number who feel that the future of motorsport will be electric. But despite the increasing debate over the viability of Formula 1 in an increasingly environmentally conscious world, Brown remains convinced of F1's enduring ability to adapt and survive.

"I think everyone is still debating [what the future of motorsport will be]. Is it electric? Is it some form of hybrid? Is it even hydrogen? What I'm comfortable in is that F1 will continue to develop in whichever way the world goes. I'm not worried about whether F1 will be out of date in ten years. F1 always moves with the times." Enditem

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