Further changes possible at Bahrain McLaren following Ellingworth’s departure to Ineos

Bahrain McLaren
Bahrain McLaren finished fourth as a team at the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

The managerial changes at Bahrain McLaren may not have ended just yet with John Allert the director of the team currently without a contract for next year. Cyclingnews broke the story that Rod Ellingworth would return to Ineos Grenadiers after leaving Bahrain McLaren last week, but the uncertainty around Allert effectively means that two-thirds of the three most powerful staff on the team have either left or are out of contract. The only current certainty is that Milan Erzen, the team’s managing director, has a role for next season.

The structure at the start of the year saw Ellingworth positioned as the team principal, Allert as the director and Erzen as the managing director. Allert came across through the McLaren side of the partnership that started in 2020, having worked at the car brand for over a decade. He was instrumental in bringing Ellingworth to the team during the 2019 season, and the pair worked together at trying to build a team capable of winning a Tour de France in the future. 

The goal looked possible after the team finished fourth at the Tour this year through Mikel Landa, but the team were also plagued by financial problems with staff and riders forced to take heavy wage deferrals  - in some cases up to 70 per cent – while McLaren struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were forced to announce 1,200 staff cuts in May.

Last week, Ellingworth and Bahrain McLaren announced that he would be leaving the team with immediate effect. He handed in his resignation during a trip to Bahrain to meet with the team’s backers, with a statement informing the media that he wanted to work closely with young riders. 

Also last week, there were several indicators that Ellingworth would return to Ineos after his 18 months away, with several other teams distancing themselves from a possible connection. On Friday, Erzen claimed that he had no knowledge of where Ellingworth was heading, but on Monday evening Ineos’ Dave Brailsford informed his riders and staff that Ellingworth would return to the British squad as the team’s director of racing. It’s unclear exactly what Ellingworth’s remit will precisely cover but he will likely take on several responsibilities that the late Nicolas Portal oversaw.

Because McLaren are effectively cutting all ties to the team next year, Allert’s role is unclear. According to Erzen, the Australian was never contracted directly to the team but through the McLaren organization. When contacted by Cyclingnews, Allert confirmed that he had no concrete plans within the team for next year but that he was still hoping to remain in the sport.

“I have great affection for the team and what they are trying to achieve, but I haven’t agreed a role with Team Bahrain Victorious for 2021,” he said. “I’m keen to remain involved in the sport and to balance that with my other business interests. 

"I’m very proud of the value the team created for the McLaren brand throughout the year, and am so thankful to the many partners, riders, staff and fans who supported the team. Watching the guys win races in our jersey was every bit as rewarding as anything I experienced in F1.” 

Erzen confirmed that a decision involving Allert was still to be made and that no plans had yet been drawn up involving a recruitment plan to replace Ellingworth.

“At this moment John is out of McLaren but we’re still working with him on some parts. We’ll see. For now we have time and we’ll see in which way we’ll work in the future. Decisions will be made in the next three or four weeks over what way we’ll go in. For now, everything is OK and all departments are working at the highest level and that’s it. He’s not part of the team, he’s part of McLaren. He was never in contract with the team as he was part of the McLaren contract."

“At this moment, no,” he said when asked about the possibility of replacing Ellingworth.

“I think that we’ll check our resources in the team and split the job. We’re talking with a couple of people of now but we don’t feel like we need to make a decision now or in a couple of weeks. The most important thing is that all things are making progress.”

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