McLaren has just announced that they will join the Formula E championship in 2023, at the beginning of Season 9 and at the introduction of the new Gen 3 cars. The Woking-based team has decided to do so by buying reigning world champion team Mercedes EQ.
McLaren is the third new team set to join the grid after Maserati and ABT's return. But what in the end convinced the team to go with the project in the end?
McLaren's CEO Zak Brown explained it in today's press conference, joined by Mercedes EQ Team Principal Ian James.
"Outside of the obvious excitement that surrounds Formula E as a racing platform and a marketing platform for our partners and fans, from a technical point of view the opportunity to acquire the world championship team, who won the last race in Monaco, to have Ian continue to lead the team shows all of our racing properties are led by individuals that have all the resources that they need and they focus on their team."
Such a move was extremely positive for the British team not only from a commercial or marketing point, but also from a racing perspective as well, especially considering the performances the FE team has been putting in this year too.
"For the most part, what Ian needs to do is change shirts next year. He has his team in place, that was appealing to us, so it was a combination of stability that we now feel we have in F1 while still a long way to go on our journey to get back to the front. Andreas has all the resources he needs."
"So, to be able to acquire a world championship team in a turn-key fashion really made it a no brainer," Brown concluded.
The deal with the German FE team sponsored by McLaren F1 team's engine supplier, won't "connect" even more the F1 teams, the CEO added.
"Our Indycar team, our F1 team, our Extreme E team, our Formula E and our ESports, they all have connectivity through them to benefit each other while they are all standalone operations."
"If you look at some of our corporate partners, they crossed over between our Indycar, Extreme E and our Formula 1, some of the team members that we have on Extreme E came from Formula 1, so while everyone is dedicated to their racing platform, there are definitely strategies among our fanbase, our employees, our brand."
Such unity and cooperation is, however, limited to the McLaren galaxy, he highlighted.
"As far as Mercedes, there's no real connectivity there in the sense of power unit provider in Formula 1, other than we have a really healthy relationship with them. I think that made the transaction easier, given that we already have a relationship, but I also would like to give a lot of credit to Formula E, Alejandro [Agag] specifically for being instantly involved and helping facilitate our partnership.
"You know, one of the things that's very attractive to us about Formula E is the leadership and the engagement that they have, the support that they provide to the teams. A lot of work went onbehind the scenes this year with Alejandro and Jamie [Reigle]to help facilitate being where we are today," he said thanking the FE president and the FE CEO.
Mercedes EQ's Team Principal Ian James was asked about the effects such a deal could have on the drivers lineup, and if reigning World Champion Nyck de Vries and championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne could be retained for the next season.
"First and foremost, if I look towards Season 8 at the moment, and the setup that we have got currently, we're very, very fortunate to have the lineup that we have got, and as we can see, they're performing incredibly well at the moment."
"But you know, one of the great things about Formula E as a series for nearly all the past few years but especially in the paddock that we are having now, we have got such a strong driver lineup across the paddock, and obviously with the names of McLaren coming by..."
While acknowledging the great performances and showcase of driving that the actual lineup has been providing for the past three years, the new team will also be looking out of the Mercedes drivers pool to choose their first ever representatives.
"We are the first to talk about it openly today, but I think it has been one of the worse kept secrets for a little while now, so it has generated a significant interest and, again, we have been very pungent in terms of our approach to making sure that we have got the most performant package possible going forwards."
"Of course, Stoffel and Nyck are part of that discussion list, but in terms of the drivers that are going to be driveing for us in season 9, there will be an announcement in due course," James concluded.