Zak Brown explains McLaren’s current dilemma and deliberations with regards to both Formula E and WEC’s LMDh/Hypercar bid.
The year 2021 has been a great for McLaren so far, they are fighting for the third spot in the F1 Constructors’ Championship with Ferrari, where Lando Norris is doing the same in the Drivers’ Championship. At the same time, they announced their increased effort in IndyCar with Arrow SP, as Patricio O’Ward fights for the title.
Elsewhere, McLaren announced its entry into Extreme E, before confirming their Formula E stance. Whilst this list is incredibly impressive, there is still a question that remains, which as noted is about its single-seater electric racing idea. Additionally, they are yet to decide on their World Endurance Championship bid too.
The latest Formula E season ended not too long ago, with Nyck de Vries taking home the world title. However, with the end of the season, came the end of the journey for Audi and BMW, whereas Mercedes is also set to leave after the 2022’s season end. The departure of these three teams slowed down McLaren’s bid as per Brown.
The big question is the commercial viability that Formula E can offer. On top of that, its economic viability is also being questioned. Formula E, currently, does not have any official cost cap introduced, and with the current average number of people in a team, 60-70 people, no cost cap is not economically feasible.
“On Formula E, we are continuing to look at, we wanted to get Extreme E out, we really like what it stands for, from sustainability and diversity and gender equality,” said Brown to media including FormulaRapida.net. “So we wanted to get that announcement out, and kind of see how our partners and fans are reacting, which has been extremely positive.
“On Formula E, we’re kind of looking to see how it continues to develop. Obviously, with Audi and BMW leaving a bit of a concern, and Mercedes will be out after Season 8. And when we make a decision, as you guys have heard before, we see, is it commercially viable? We’re still looking at that.
“Is it operationally distracting as Formula E teams are becoming quite big? Now we’re talking about putting in a cost cap, that’s not yet done. But the current Formula E team has about 60-70 people, and currently doesn’t have a cost cap. So, we don’t yet know if it is going to be economically viable without a cost cap. I don’t think it is,” stated Brown.
All logistics and technicalities aside, Brown states that McLaren like and respect Formula E racing, both as spectators and suppliers. “With all that we’ve got going on with IndyCar and Extreme E is something that we feel the timing is right. So, we like what Formula E stands for, we like the racing, we’ve been, obviously, participating as the supplier, so those are the things that go into consideration,” he said.
Amid the Formula E look-in, McLaren is also checking out the new steps being taken in WEC, a series which is internationally acclaimed with viewership and participation across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Brown already co-runs a team via United Autosports in the LMP2 class, but the new LMDh/Hypercar category is interesting him more.
The biggest hurdle for McLaren is engine supply, as the British carmaker do not manufacturer engines of their own. A top entry outfit in WEC requires a large team and quite an effort in development so it is a big commitment. Though it does go hand-in-hand with McLaren’s racing pedigree, and is something that they would really like to do.
Brown explains that if McLaren were to actually do it, it would have to be the 2024 season, as it’s too late to be ready in time for 2023. To be ready for the that season, however, McLaren would have to make their decision by the end of this year, especially on the engine side, because that is crucial for their bid.
“On WEC, I’m very happy to see the LMDh-Hypercar coming together, because that was a concern. There, our engine does not work in the current regulation, our crank height is too high, so it requires us having an engine partner,” said Brown. “That’s something that we’re exploring. A WEC team is also quite a large team, and quite an undertaking of development. I think it does fit great with our racing pedigree and our automotive business, so that’s something that we would really like to do. But we’re still evaluating if we’re going to do it, and when we would do it.
“If we do it, it would be for the 2024 season; we will not be at this point ready to start for the 2023 season. We’ll need to make that decision in order to be ready for ’24 by the end of this year as well,” summed up Brown. The WEC’s new category in combination with IMSA’s new one has attracted the likes of Toyota, Audi, Porsche, Peugeot, Alpine, Glickenhaus, ByKolles, Ferrari, Acura, BMW and Cadillac, for now.
The story was written by Selena Aburas
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