McLaren May Be Next to Jump Into Formula E. What Does It Have to Gain?
A division of McLaren is already the sole battery supplier for the electric racing series.
McLaren announced Monday morning that it had signed an option to join Formula E for the racing series' ninth season, which will take place in 2022-23. If the deal were to come to fruition, the Woking automaker would join the category under its upcoming "Gen3" regulations, which will enact stricter weight, battery, and power rule sets. That being said, what McLaren stands to gain from joining Formula E remains murky.
Today's announcement came as a surprise, as it's no secret that McLaren Automotive and its other business divisions have been strapped for cash due to the lack of major sponsorship deals over the last decade, as well as the COVID-19 financial fallout. Heck, it's even put up the iconic McLaren Technology Center HQ building up for sale. And while McLaren saw better results in F1 in 2020 and success within its new IndyCar parternship with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, further expansion—especially into a fully electric racing series—is questionable.
Most, if not all, major automakers are in a hurry to fully comprehend EV technology in order to speed up their products to market, and racing presents them with an accelerated opportunity to do that. However, it's worth noting that McLaren Applied, a tech and development branch of the McLaren organization, is currently the sole battery supplier for Formula E and has been for several years. This means that Woking, in some way, shape or form, already has the know-how and the experience of what it takes to compete in Formula E—and what's to be learned from it—without actually joining the series. Of course, that knowledge is limited without actually hitting the track with a race car, but it's knowledge nonetheless.
The contract signed with Formula E is nothing but a reservation, per se. It only means that McLaren is interested in doing so and would like to reserve a spot on the grid, but it certainly doesn't confirm that it will join the series. That shouldn't happen until later this year or even the next. Should McLaren not join, Formula E should feel a sense of urgency to invite other automakers to the party, especially after BMW and Audi will officially leave the series at the end of 2021.
The Gen3 regulations will push for more powerful and lighter cars, with a 265-pound weight reduction and power boost up to 350kW, which is equivalent to 470 horsepower, per Motorsport.com.
As Formula 1 becomes more dependent on hybrid power and McLaren street cars utilize these systems to curb emissions while keeping performance levels high, it's not completely foreign to think that Woking wants to dig deeper into EVs and electrification in general, but exactly how much and at what cost remains a secret.
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