Formula E could beckon for McLaren following reported Audi takeover

Audi has reportedly acquired the whole of the McLaren Group, so does this mean a future in Formula E is on the cards?

This week, AutoCar reported that Audi had secured entry into Formula 1 through the acquisition of the McLaren Group.

It had been rumoured that both Audi and BMW were locked in a bidding war for the Surrey based McLaren, however, the report from AutoCar, as well as a tweet from former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley, appeared to confirm that a deal with Audi had been struck.

This deal could be Audi’s golden ticket into Formula 1, with the brand having left the fully-electric series, Formula E, at the end of the last season.

Audi’s entry into Formula 1 had been in the making for many months, with the move seemingly coming to fruition after Audi, and Porsche, which is also looking to enter F1, agreed to drop the MGH-U technology.

This decision moves the two brands in line with other manufacturers, with Mercedes F1 co-owner and team principal, Toto Wolff, saying: “The MGU-H will be dropped if we can find alignment of many other points. I think it’s a compromise that – I can’t speak for anyone else – but at Mercedes, we are prepared to enter in order to facilitate the entry of the Volkswagen Group.”

This was echoed by Auto Motor und Sport’s Michael Schmidt, who said: “The MGU-H will only be given up if Audi and Porsche are coming. Both are coming.”

Audi’s determination to enter Formula 1 may come as a surprise, considering’s the manufacturers well-documented commitment to electric vehicles. The brand will offer 20 electric models by 2025, which it says will be more than any other brand and will also be competing at Dakar with an all-electric powertrain.

However, Audi’s expected entry into Formula 1 does not undermine this commitment, and that is thanks to McLaren’s agreement with Formula E.

Back in January, McLaren secured an option with Formula E, granting McLaren Racing an option to enter the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship when Formula E’s Gen3 kicks off in Season 9.

Zak Brown, chief executive officer of McLaren Racing, commented at the time: “We’ve been closely observing Formula E for some time and monitoring the series’ progress and future direction. The opportunity to take an option on an entry and the completion of the McLaren Applied supplier contract with the FIA at the end of Gen2, gives us the necessary time to decide if Formula E is right for McLaren as a future competition platform.”

The takeover of McLaren would therefore keep Audi’s foot in the door of electric motorsport, particularly as McLaren has also confirmed entry into the next season of Extreme E.

Concerns had been raised over the future of Formula E, after Audi, Mercedes and BMW stepped away from the end of the sport at the end of the last season.

However, comments from Audi’s team principal, Allan McNish, on the Everything EV Podcast, suggest this deal may have been in the works months ago.

Speaking on the podcast back in August, McNish shared his thoughts on the future of Formula E, shortly after Mercedes exit from Formula E was confirmed.

“It’s certainly not from an outward point of view a good sign having three German manufacturers out of four leaving at the same time,” McNish said. “However, the Championship will pivot. I remember when Audi was the first manufacturer to join and then three followed very, very quickly. Therefore, the Championship was surviving, and it was developing very, very well before that and it will continue to survive. It will just have to adapt, and it will re-align to be more of a team-based situation than necessarily just the big OEMs.

“However, there’s still a lot of OEMs that are still in the paddock and a lot of manufacturers as well. As I said, I think the Championship will evolve.”

So, McNish didn’t seem worried for the future of Formula E, and whilst the loss of three major manufacturers from the sport was initially concerning, the news of the takeover of McLaren may suggest that Audi stepped away knowing the deal was already in the making, and that Audi’s presence in FE would be retained through its ownership of McLaren.

If the reported takeover of McLaren is confirmed, then perhaps the confirmation of McLaren Racings entry into Formula E won’t be too far behind? Watch this space!

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Charlie Atkinson

Editor for EV Powered, covering and reviewing all things electric.