McLaren happy with Nissan customer team status in Formula E: "That's nothing you can't overcome"
By taking over the former Mercedes factory team, McLaren Racing secured a starting place in Formula E in 2022 and went to the starting grid in 2023 with customer engines from Japanese manufacturer Nissan. Although McLaren develops its own powertrains on the road and the McLaren P1's electric motor even formed the basis for the unified powertrain of the first Formula E season, the British company plans to retain its status as a customer team in the long term.
When McLaren's entry into Formula E was announced, speculation quickly arose that the Brits might also enter the electric series as a manufacturer at the same time. In the end, however, the decision was taken against this in Woking and a long-term partnership with Nissan was concluded.
"That's something we've talked about," McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown confirmed in a media roundtable attended by e-Formula.news. "I think just like in Formula 1 you can have a customer unit and there are some disadvantages to not being a factory team. But that's nothing you can't overcome with great drivers and a great team. Nissan has done a good job."
"So I don't think we as McLaren would do that in the near future," Brown said, not seeing the team in the role of a manufacturer in the electric series even in the medium term. "It would be a financial challenge to make that work for us. The numbers don't work for us in the same way they do for some of the big manufacturers who have a bigger brand presence."
"If the numbers were right, of course we would be interested," Brown continued. "But we can't justify the expenditure in relation to the size of our business in the way that a large manufacturer can. I don't think there's a scenario where the numbers would add up in terms of benefits, because the McLaren racing team is separate from the automotive business."
Brown: "It doesn't make sense for a pure racing team"
But the initiative to do so would have to come from the sports car manufacturer McLaren, not the racing team, Brown clarifies. "If our automotive arm felt they wanted to do it and take advantage of the commercialisation of electrification, it could be done. But for a pure racing team, it doesn't pay to fund its own powertrain."
"One of the main reasons for partnering with Nissan was that we felt they would be one of the more cooperative manufacturers, particularly in terms of working with the customer team," team principal Ian James explained of the decision. "I think that was very good. I'm really looking forward to continuing this journey with Nissan, going forward. That's the focus of our partnership."
McLaren finished the 2023 Formula E World Championship in eighth place in the team standings, just behind the Nissan factory team. The first race of their second season together will be held in Mexico City in January 2024. First, pre-season testing will take place in Valencia at the end of the month.