The NEOM McLaren Formula E Team are targeting to “really maximise our performances” in season 10, according to Team Principal Ian James.
McLaren’s maiden Formula E campaign was a mixed affair which started in superb fashion, with Jake Hughes having claimed pole in the third round, before René Rast secured the team’s only podium in the same race (Diriyah R2).
Hughes went onto claim another pole position at the Monaco E-Prix, with the Briton having shown great one-lap pace in his and the Woking-based team’s debut campaign. In most rounds, qualifying pace wasn’t an issue; however, energy efficiency was.
Similar to their powertrain supplier Nissan, McLaren often fell backwards during the races in 2023, due to every other powertrain supplier other than NIO boasting better efficiency. This impacted McLaren’s ability to score points, something Rast failed to do in the final 10 races.
Even after starting the season superbly, Hughes scored just three points across the final seven rounds. As a team, 96.5% of the side’s points came in the opening nine rounds, highlighting just how poor McLaren’s performances were in the second half of the campaign.
One issue looking ahead to their sophomore season is that changes cannot be made to the powertrain, with that being frozen until 2025 under the current regulations. However, McLaren can work on improving their software, something James revealed the side intend to do in order to “really control the controllable”.
“The homologation cycle from a hardware perspective is every two years, so we’re going into next year with the same powertrain. However, the software is open, and we are continuing to develop that,” James said, as per McLaren’s end-of-season review.
“Operational excellence is something that we have really placed front and centre of what is going to make us successful. We didn’t always get that right this season, so we’re going to be working on that to make sure we can really control the controllable and get every single detail as it needs to be.”
One bonus the side do have for the 2023/24 season is the vast experience of Sam Bird, who has joined the British outfit to replace René Rast. Whilst Bird’s three-year spell at Jaguar TCS Racing failed to live up to its expectations, he remains as one of the most experienced drivers on the Formula E grid, something which can only be seen as a benefit to McLaren.
Bird knows what it takes to be successful in Formula E and can therefore relay that into how McLaren operate, to ensure that himself and Hughes can make as much progress as possible.
Given that the 36-year-old stood on the podium four times in season nine, speed clearly isn’t an issue for Bird. He’ll certainly push Hughes to improve, something Rast arguably didn’t really do this year.
James has acknowledged that Bird has entered the team with “passion”, with him clearly being “hungry” to succeed. The team boss believes this will inspire everyone in the team to raise their game in their second Formula E season, giving James the confidence that Bird and Hughes can ensure that McLaren “really maximise our performances” going forwards.
“When Jake and René joined last season, you could see that hunger,” James said.
“Sam has got vast experience in Formula E, and yet he is just as hungry coming into this next season. When the team can see that, when they can feel that passion and that focus on making sure we really maximise our performances, that’s a very, very powerful thing.
“With Sam and Jake, we’ve got two drivers who are going to be instrumental in making sure that we can wring out every last little bit of performance.”