The Mercedes EQ Formula E team is in talks with McLaren to form a potential independent ‘super team’ so the reigning champions team can continue in Formula E for the Gen3 era after Mercedes pull out of the factory later This year.
The race may reveal plans for what is currently the Mercedes team to remain in FE in a new form is nearly formed and is likely to include a Nissan customer power unit to be raced from the 2022/23 season.
That could include the McLaren name in a capacity yet to be defined after talks between the organizations intensified last month.
Those discussions are ongoing, as are other options that are still being pursued by the Brackley-based team that won both FE titles last year.
The Mercedes EQ grid location is now set to continue into Gen3, but the ultimate entry name is yet to be determined, with a potential McLaren-branded entity seen as one of many possibilities.
The Mercedes element of the team will disappear in August when the manufacturer itself retires at the end of the current season. The decision to do so follows a long process that came to a head last summer when the continuation of the Formula E program was rejected by Daimler executives.
The Mercedes EQ Gen3 powertrain design programme, which was led by former Super Aguri Formula 1 technical chief Peter McCool and had made significant development progress, ceased last August.
This meant that if the team were to continue in Gen3, they would have to seek out and reach a deal with a registered manufacturer.
The Race understands that Nissan and NIO 333 are currently the only manufacturers who have not entered into firm agreements to supply other teams.
While NIO 333 has always had only an outside chance to become a supplier, Nissan is currently preparing for a deal.
Mercedes EQ team principal Ian James first met McLaren CEO Zak Brown at the 2021 season opener last February in Diriyah, and talks of a possible alliance are said to have escalated. accelerated from last fall.
Now, nearly a year after they first met, James and other Mercedes EQ executives have met with Brown again to discuss a possible collaboration, and several paddock insiders told The Race over the weekend last in Riyadh that these discussions were intensifying.
“On the Formula E side, they are [McLaren] bide their time before a final decision is made,” James told The Race.
“I cannot speak for Zak or McLaren, they will no doubt analyze things very carefully and then make the appropriate decision at the right time.
“Since that first meeting, we have stayed in touch and had discussions, as we have also been with other parties.”
However, The Race understands that McLaren are still exploring the possibility of entering their own team in Formula E.
Brown told select media outlets, including The Race last month, that a decision on a possible involvement in Formula E would likely come “probably at the end of the first quarter”, meaning the end of the next month.
“Originally I wanted to make a decision by December,” said Brown, whose company is also adding an Extreme E program this year and has taken majority control of its Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team.
“It was driven by technical reasons, I felt we had to make a decision. And I think we’ve done enough homework now that we probably have another quarter to go.
“According to our criteria, it must not harm our other races, take more, it must be commercially viable.
“Our economy is now very strong from the starting point, but I have to make sure I stay on that trajectory.
“I like both series. I think we can be competitive in both series. We know how we would go about doing both series.
James said the feeling within the Mercedes FE team now is that it will certainly continue beyond 2022 in a new form.
“Internally we are clear on what the future looks like and it is very positive that we will play our part in Gen3 and beyond as well,” he told The Race.
“Whatever form we take in the future, we have to make sure that we are going to perform.
“For this reason, it is essential for me that, whatever partner we partner with, whether it is on the commercial side, the sporting side or the supply side, it is the right package and the right setup to make sure we’re continuing in this vein.
Partnerships between manufacturers and customer teams for the Gen3 have been the subject of rampant speculation in recent months, as the exits of Audi, BMW and Mercedes have led to a reshaping of the grid. Powertrains from Audi and BMW remain in Formula E for now with Envision and Andretti respectively, but both – like the current Mercedes team – need new suppliers for Gen3.
“I’m confident on that side of things,” James said of Mercedes’ search for a powertrain partner.
“Obviously the ‘dating game’ has been going on for a few weeks or months now.
“There are different deadlines that you have to meet. We are not far from having to obtain elements for Gen3. So we also see a certain stability with regard to these partnerships.
“For this reason, we are very conscientious in our approach and ensure that we have considered all the different options.
“The ingredients are there now, so I’m confident we’ll have the right strategy in place when the time comes.”
Nissan’s global motorsport director Tommaso Volpe told The Race last Friday that “we have a plan to be able to support” as his company has become favorite to supply what is currently Mercedes.
“We haven’t announced anything yet because obviously we are still discussing, and things are not settled,” he added.
Volpe indicated that reaching a deal is a high priority due to long lead times for parts to get additional powertrain supplies to customers, saying it “is essential” to confirm plans as soon as possible now. .
“We are managing the whole situation so that we can provide,” he said.
A flurry of announcements that manufacturers’ teams are partnering on for the first two Gen3 seasons in 2023 and 2024 are expected to begin later this month and into March.
The Race already reported last month that team Avalanche Andretti were close to a deal to run Porsche cars, while a deal between Jaguar and team Envision Racing was reportedly reached at a relatively early stage in December. .
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