McLaren will enter Extreme E, an all-electric off-road championship, in 2022 as it expands its McLaren Racing brand into new series.
McLaren will race alongside teams owned by seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.
The series aims to raise awareness of environmental issues by racing all-electric off-road vehicles in parts of the world impacted by climate change.
Extreme E is also unique in the world of professional motorsport as it requires one male and one female driver per team by regulation.
The championship is two races in to its five-race debut season, with McLaren due to join at the start of the second season next year.
“From the moment Extreme E was announced we have been following the progress of the series closely,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said.
“Our attention was immediately drawn by the innovative format of this motorsport platform, in particular the ability it gives us to accelerate and boost our own overarching sustainability agenda, which shares the same priorities of decarbonisation, waste reduction, diversity and equality.
“At the same time, it will enable us to reach a new audience with an innovative race format, connect with a new generation of fans through content served across a variety of channels and provide partners with a purpose-led competition platform to align with and share in a positive, powerful narrative.”
McLaren’s entry into Extreme E came as a surprise as it has publicly talked about entries in the World Endurance Championship and the all-electric single seater series Formula E, but had not mentioned Extreme E as an option.
“All the different racing series have different attributes, different reasons and rationale as to why they may or may not fit inside the McLaren Racing portfolio,” Brown explained.
“We haven’t taken a decision yet on those other series.
“Why Extreme E? I believe the franchise will be sold out quickly, whereas when you get into something like WEC there is no pressure to be one of X amount of teams, so we felt with the success of the season we didn’t have the luxury of maybe waiting another six months.
“And also the importance of sustainability and diversity to McLaren Racing, and being able to accelerate that program, and demand from our partners, and our desire to understand the technologies and learn from that.
“So it was for all those reasons that we took the decision to enter Extreme E while we continue to evaluate these other racing opportunities.”
Asked specifically about a Formula E entry, Brown added: “We’ve not taken any final decisions on that yet.
“Our option goes until the end of year, so we want to get this announcement out there and see what activity it creates with our fans in the market place.
“WEC and Formula E remain under review and we anticipate having some direction on both of those later in the year.”
Brown made clear that the Extreme E entry and McLaren’s existing participation in IndyCar would not detract from the rebuilding of the Formula One team, which has recovered from the back of the grid to the midfield in recent years.
He also stressed that the team’s financial issues, which resulted in a lease back agreement on its factory, a £150 million loan from the national bank of Bahrain and the sale of a significant minority shareholding to American investors last year, were behind the team.
“One hundred percent our financial situation at McLaren is extremely strong,” Brown said. “Of course, we have to be very diligent and get a return on investment anywhere we spend any money, whether that is entering a new race series or funding a new wind tunnel.
“But yes, we are financially very healthy, and our competitiveness in F1 is allowing us to look at IndyCar and has allowed us to enter into Extreme E, because what we will never do is distract or detract from our Formula One efforts.
“IndyCar, Extreme E are all there to complementary entries and help accelerate our Formula One effort.”
Brown said a decision had not yet been made on McLaren’s Extreme E driver line up.
“We haven’t made any decisions yet. But what we are going to do, like in all our racing, is go for the two best drivers we can get our hands on.”