McLaren bosses James & Brown sum up 1st Formula E season: "We've not kept up with meeting our expectations"
Even though the Neom McLaren team only reached eighth place in the overall standings in the end, team principal Ian James and McLaren CEO Zak Brown draw a positive conclusion to the first Formula E season in 2023, singling out Jake Hughes in particular, who made his Formula E debut last season. There are areas to improve, though.
With McLaren, a new name was on the team list for the 2023 Formula E World Championship. The team, founded in the mid-1960s by New Zealander Bruce McLaren, had taken over the Mercedes factory team after the end of the previous season and, at the same time, large parts of the staff, including team principal Ian James.
"We've had a strong start, probably even stronger than expected," James summed up the season in a media roundtable that included e-Formula.news. "I think that's because the team was working brilliantly. It's all about the details. We knew we had to push the reset button with the Gen3 car, which resulted in a steep learning curve."
Brown: "Jake Hughes is a star"
"We also transistioned to becoming a customer team and obviously are very much reliant on the performance of the package that the manufacturer (Nissan) provides us," he continues. "And we had two new drivers in Jake and Rene. Rene, probably a known quantity within Formula E and the wider motorsport field because of his experience."
"Jake, on the other hand, was a less safe bet as a rookie. So there were a lot of unknowns and the expectations were accordingly cautious."
In his first Formula E season, Hughes was particularly convincing in qualifying securing pole position twice in Diriyah and Monaco. "I think it was a brave decision to put Jake in the car because he wasn't that experienced," McLaren CEO Zak Brown agrees. "Ian came to me and said that he and the team wanted to put Jake in the car. I asked him, 'Are you sure?' He was. I think Jake is a star. I couldn't be happier with what he's done over the course of the season."
James: "The stronger packages started to come to the top"
After a strong start to the season, however, McLaren gradually lost ground. After Rene Rast had been on the podium for McLaren for the first time in Diriyah, the drivers later even struggled to finish in the points on a regular basis.
"As the season progressed, it's fair to say that we kept up with meeting our expectations," James elaborates. "Mid-season, when others started to get to grips with the Gen3 car, there was a sort of convergence of performance. I suppose the stronger packages started to come to the top."
As the season drew to a close, repeated failures in various areas of the team also became apparent. "If I'm quite honest, there's been a fewe areas on ur part operationally, there's been a couple of driver related issues," he describes.
Team principal "not overly concerned"
"And it has been probably a little bit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time as well, which ist just part and parcel of motorsport. But at the same time, I am not overly concerned and I say that because there's been no mistake made twice. And as long as we're learning and continue to develop, we can make sure we put ourselves in a strong position going forward."
In the 2024 Formula E World Championship, McLaren will once again compete as a Nissan customer team. Following the departure of Rene Rast, who will focus on his role as a BMW factory driver, Jake Hughes will get a highly experienced and successful teammate in Sam Bird. Before the new season starts in January, the traditional pre-season testing will take place in Valencia at the end of October.