McLaren had to beat a number of its Formula 1 rivals to sign young American karting champion Ugo Ugochukwu, according to team CEO Zak Brown.
The 13-year-old Ugochukwu won the 2020 FIA OKJ European Championship, adding to a number of titles from the U.S. that caught the attention of multiple F1 teams. The American was part of Sauber’s junior karting program before signing an agreement with McLaren and Brown says he and team principal Andreas Seidl had to work smartly to secure his signature.
“There was interest from a couple of other teams — some of the big ones,” Brown said. “I think he’s got a great racing pedigree — Andreas and I spoke about it quite a bit — so we did have to put some work into it because if he wasn’t going to sign with McLaren he was definitely going to have a Formula 1 relationship and he had a couple of different choices.
“I like his background, like what he has achieved to date. I like his family. He’s very articulate. He’s still very young but Andreas and I continue to think very long-term in our ambitions for McLaren and we got the opportunity and I’m very happy we signed him up.”
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While Ugochukwu is a long-term prospect as part of the McLaren setup, Seidl says a team priority at the moment is to have two drivers who are both able to deliver the best results on a consistent basis.
“That’s obviously the target in terms of driver line-up — to have two top guys that are always able to get the maximum out of the car and out of a race weekend, to score good points. That was a good strength of our team the last two years,” Seidl said.
“That was one key element of scoring these good positions in the constructors’ championship and we obviously wanted to make sure we keep going in that direction with our driver line-up. I am very happy that we have Lando (Norris) and Daniel (Ricciardo) onboard. I think we have already seen (in Bahrain) — I am absolutely convinced that we can continue this.”