Last year, McLaren announced its Extreme E entrancethis year he has confirmed that he will race in Formula E Gen3 era, as well. Today he unveiled the liveries of both cars and announced his partnership with a new Saudi state-backed city project called Neom. In fact, Neom is highlighted on both cars.
One of the most striking things about this new partnership is that Neom doesn’t exist yet. The plan is to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, partly floating, with work and living areas called Oxagon, as well as a fully self-contained port. It’s also supposed to have a tech campus, a hill station, and be a shining example of the future, working specifically on sustainability. But it has been the subject of criticism and protests from environmental groups and in particular the Huwaitat tribe, on whose traditional lands it is built despite having environmental commitments attached to its construction.
And, again, despite not being around, Neom has been sponsoring motorsport for some time. The first race on the Extreme E calendar this year took place in Neom, or at least in the same area where this city of the future is supposed to take place, and it is also sponsored by the Mercedes Formula E team since the team of factory entered the sport.
However, Mercedes pulled out of Formula E at the end of last season, so that team will become McLaren’s Formula E team at the end of the current season, with the Neom brand and all.
“We will literally take over the Mercedes team from Formula E, move it to a new location but in the same general vicinity,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. “So in the short term they’re not going to move to MTC. It’s to give a good integration to the existing team and not pick them up, move them all.
“All EV racing will be led by Ian James,” Brown said, referring to the Mercedes Formula E team principal. (CEO). So it will be the existing Extreme E team, the existing Formula E team with Ian’s leadership in both.”
Race drivers are not transferring, but all other staff will (if they wish) and the team will report to a new “vertical” which is part of McLaren Racing, but encompasses both Formula E and Extreme E teamsin partnership with Neom, according to Brown.
The partnership isn’t just a sticker on a car, as McLaren will be one of Oxagon’s first tenants and will have 12 employees there. There will also be 20 people from Neom who will come to learn at McLaren as part of a technical acceleration programme.
Whether it matters at all to how they race doesn’t matter so far, but Neom is doing its best to be more than just publicity in a racing team is a step in the investment Saudi in world motorsport, alongside significant F1 sponsorship via Aramco.
McLaren’s Extreme E lineup is locked in with Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust, but its Formula E lineup is still totally up in the air and dependent on IndyCar. McLaren’s US operation has grown to three cars for 2023 and that’s sign Felix Rosenqvist, who before Indycar was winning for Mahindra in Formula E – and Brown told me earlier he could go either way. Whoever the other Formula E driver is, it won’t be Stoffel Vandoorne or current world champion Nyck de Vries.
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