McLaren will have to wait until 2018 at the earliest before it can find a new title sponsor, reckons newly appointed executive director Zak Brown.
The Woking-based outfit announced last week that Brown was joining it as part of an effort to help lift its profile and boost its commercial income, which has suffered in recent years following the loss of several sponsors.
Brown is viewed as F1's sponsor guru – having brought many businesses to grand prix racing through his previous work at JMI – and some have suggested his priority is ending McLaren's three-year drought with a title sponsor since Vodafone quit at the end of 2012.
But speaking at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Brown said it was already too late for him to find a title sponsor for 2017 and the team would even have to work hard to find one for the following year.
"Clearly a title partner is something that on a commercial basis, and it is something that I am most linked to, is going to be critically important," said Brown, explaining what his responsibilities would be in the next few months.
"But I would start taking a look at 2018. 2017 is already here and I don't have any tricks up my sleeve on that one yet."
Brown said he did not know why McLaren had failed to secure a title partner in recent years, amid rumours that previous chief Ron Dennis had refused to bring down the rate card despite several companies being interested.
Asked why he believed McLaren had not succeeded, Brown said: "It is a difficult environment for all of us. Red Bull had a title sponsor [Infiniti], they don't now – it is themselves. Ferrari goes about things a little bit differently and Mercedes has been fortunate to have a title partner for some time.
"I think there are some serious head winds out there in this world – whether it is Brexit, or the US election. It is a difficult environment. It is not an inexpensive sponsorship, but it is great value, it is global. So when you break it down, it is money very well-spent.
"But I've not been on the inside so I don't know how many near misses they have had. We had a couple close opportunities, so it is hard. Very hard. By no means do I have a magic wand and think having a title partner for 2018 is going to be an easy feat."
Brown believes, however, that being able to focus full-time on finalising a deal would help him get something complete – whereas previous efforts with JMI had never been solely about McLaren.
"I've not been looking for a title sponsor for McLaren as part of a day job," he said.
"JMI were out there but we don't look after any particular teams. What we tend to do is sit in front of corporations and understand what their needs are and then try to direct them where we happen to think is a good fit.
"We have a lot of logos on other racing teams and they are responsible for quite a few here at McLaren and the difference now will be I've got the shirt on and I have the business card – but I am going to put in a tremendous amount of effort into that.
"So hopefully 100 percent time as opposed to part- time will be the difference between us being able to deliver one as JMI and being able to deliver one as a McLaren employee."