If you were looking for a team that embodies the pomp and excess that Formula 1 is known for, you would likely pick McLaren Racing.
Think of the incredible Norman Foster-designed McLaren Technical Centre, the grandiose Brand Centre – the hospitality unit that began a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ building race – and the team's raputation for meticulous levels of preparation and cleanliness.
Things have changed since Ron Dennis stepped down as the boss in 2016, and under Zak Brown, the team has strived to create a more open, relaxed image. Even so, it’s quite the culture shock to see a McLaren Racing team operating out of a no-nonsense tent in the middle of a dusty, dirty Saudi Arabian desert. But your eyes aren’t deceiving you: that really is an Extreme E electric off-road SUV resplendent in McLaren’s papaya orange.
“I think we took people by surprise,” says Brown laughing, when asked to reflect on the reaction to the announcement that McLaren would expand into a series using electric SUVs racing in remote locations to highlight the impact of climate change. And it’s just one step of a notable expansion of McLaren Racing’s motorsport activities outside of F1 – which next year will also include Formula E. Why?
“McLaren has a history of being brave and doing innovative things,” says Brown, in an interview conducted before the team's recent Formula E announcement.
New Zealand-born racing driver Bruce McLaren founded his team in 1963 to run in the Australian Tasman Series but quickly diversified.
“In the early days, it was F1, it was Indycar, it was CanAm and more,” says Brown. “McLaren Racing is in the business of going racing, and now that we’ve got the F1 team back on track in terms of team structure, we felt it was the time to start expanding our racing enterprise.”