2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button is willing to play the long game with his car development in order to give himself the best chance of claiming a second title.
“When we came into this season we wanted to build a car that would be strong throughout the year, and that’s why we’ve made so many changes to the way the car looks, the reason being is that it’s a very long season and we want to be able to develop all the way through the year.”
There has been little change to the regulations for 2013 meaning that many teams are using a refined version of last season’s car. Button admitted in an interview that McLaren’s strategy may not make them quick at first, but it will pay off towards the end of the season whilst other teams struggle to innovate.
“It means they [the other teams] will be strong at the first race, but they won’t be able to develop like us through the year. That is the idea we have.”
Button will be joined at McLaren by Sergio Perez in 2013 following the departure of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes. Despite his ex-teammate setting the timesheets ablaze in testing, Button did not pick a clear front-runner for the beginning of the season.
“We still want to be quick at the first race, we want to win from the word go. But it’s possibly going to be a tough race, not just for us, but for everyone because it seems so, so close at the moment.
“But we still go to Melbourne aiming for a victory.”
Although their pace towards the end of testing was disappointing, McLaren may have the edge on their rivals if they can develop their car throughout the season. Red Bull started 2012 very poorly, and Sebastian Vettel had won just once before the Singapore Grand Prix. However, the work at Red Bull saw him take a further four victories on his way to a third title, and McLaren will hope that a similar tactic will work for them in 2013.
Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.
The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.
“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.
“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.
“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”
The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.
Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.
Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.
McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.