In what series will McLaren end their single-seater championship drought?

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If you asked any Formula 1 fan to think of ‘McLaren’, they’d immediately think of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton or even the team’s eponymous founder himself.

But while McLaren’s history is intrinsically linked to F1, the organisation has a long and proud history in motorsport that stretches far beyond a single series. During last month’s Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500, the team celebrated its successes in three of the biggest races in the world with special liveries on its Formula 1 and IndyCar challengers – throwbacks to their best moments from the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Under the leadership of Zak Brown as CEO, McLaren’s racing division have once again expanded their vision beyond Formula 1. In the last six years, the team has gone from a one-off entry in the Indy 500 to having its own IndyCar team with three permanent entries and into electric motorsport with Extreme E, as well as joining Formula E by purchasing Mercedes’ multiple championship-winning team.

That means that McLaren now have teams competing in two of the FIA’s world championships – Formula 1 and Formula E – as well as most senior single-seater championship outside of F1, the IndyCar Series, championships that any manufacturer would happily boast about winning – especially when McLaren’s road car wing continues to grow. Brown is also open to expanding his team’s operations further, including into sportscar racing, having stated that it’s a matter of “when” rather than “if” McLaren get involved in top level sportscar racing.

But while McLaren have enjoyed success in recent years, winning the Italian Grand Prix in 2021 in F1, multiple IndyCar races since joining the series and a podium in its first 11 Formula E rounds, they have not won a championship since Lewis Hamilton’s first F1 title back in 2008.

So out of all the major single-seater series McLaren currently compete in, which are they more likely to take a title in first?

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I say

Even to this day, McLaren still remain one of the most successful F1 teams of all time, with 12 drivers’ championships to go with their eight constructors’ titles. But that heritage means little these days when Formula 1 remains incredibly difficult to win – especially after the dominance of Mercedes and Red Bull over the last decade.

O’Ward has been successful with McLaren
Instead, Aston Martin have shown what kind of investment is needed to bring a team from the midfield up to the fight at the front. While McLaren are in the process of building up their facilities at their factory and attract plenty of commercial interest, it’s still hard to see them suddenly jumping to the front of F1 in the near future – especially given how they are in the process of rebuilding their technical team.

That leaves either Formula E or IndyCar. As the reigning double champion team, under their previous identity as Mercedes, you would think McLaren had a good chance of repeating their team’s previous success. However, the switch to a Nissan powertrain has not resulted in any wins for the team so far and Gen3 of Formula E has proven intensely competitive in just half a season to date.

It’s hard not to look at IndyCar as McLaren’s best hope. Three very strong drivers in Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi and a level of investment in the series that seems to have increased every year. It feels like Brown is trying to build a true powerhouse in IndyCar to match the likes of Penske, Andretti and Chip Ganassi. It won’t be easy, but winning the IndyCar championship is a goal McLaren seems totally committed to achieving.



You say

Which international single-seater championship do you believe McLaren will win next?

  • None (14%)
  • Formula E (14%)
  • IndyCar (69%)
  • Formula 1 (3%)

Total Voters: 78

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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30 comments on “In what series will McLaren end their single-seater championship drought?”

  1. It was a toss up for me between Indy and none.

    In the end, I suspect that they might luck into an Indy win at some point because wins with a heap of luck involved seem to happen more regularly in Indy than other competitions.

    I’m just not convinced that McLaren have enough focus in any one of their endeavours to reach the top step. They seem more interested in marketing than winning.

  2. Formula 1.

    2041.

  3. Probably Indy. But in all honesty, who cares about them winning anything else than F1? FE and IndyCar are sub-par racing categories.

    It would be great if they’d win the Indy 500. It would be awesome if they’d enter hypercars and win Le Mans. But winning championship in Indy, FE, WEC.. who cares man.

    Let alone Xtreme E, who the hell decided that was a good idea to shift money and resources to?

    McLaren should focus on F1.

    1. “FE and IndyCar are sub-par racing categories.”
      You don’t seem to understand what a par is, mate ;) Those series are well above par, especially Indycar, which probably is the 3rd most popular racing series in the world behind F1 and MotoGP.

      1. Spec chassis in IndyCar means it really isn’t in the same league as F1 etc… indycar’s popularity was built upon the era when it was a proper full blooded motorsport competition. Without that heritage it really would not be of much interest.

      2. Indycar, which probably is the 3rd most popular racing series in the world

        Indycar just pulled in less than 1.1 million viewers on broadcast TV in its home market, which was only a few thousand more than Formula 1 got on basic cable a few hours earlier.

        Nascar doubled both while being broadcast on basic cable.

        1. So, by that logic, are you going to say that F1 can’t be an important series if it loses out to Nascar in terms of viewing figures?

          1. By that logic, you’re unlikely to be the 3rd most popular racing series in the world when you get beat (by a factor of 2!) by another series in your home market, while they are on cable and you are on broadcast TV.

    2. Why would Indycar be “sub-par”? It constantly delivers great racing, even on a track like Detroit.

      1. Spec chassis. Spec chassis is good for hobby racing but it does mean that racing lacks real stakes. You can find great racing anywhere, that isn’t in short supply.

        1. Unless one is a shareholder and stands to benefit from the prize money, it seems the racing is a more relevant to fans and viewers. But to each his own.

      2. Indycar owners are so cheap, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were looking for hand-outs from the series to replenish the toilet paper in their trailers.

        Can’t have a premier series when it’s basically a group of millionaires grifting a billionaire.

        1. Premier is just a marketing term. And yes, Indycar is cheaply run, but that’s on purpose. No need to spend more than necessary, and Indycar has a solid calendar with fast racing cars. What more should they spend money on?

          One might also wonder what the heck those F1 teams are spending all those hundreds of millions (!) a year on. Especially since most of them deliver a product that will never be closer to the podium than while driving through the pitlane.

    3. Sub par? You’re sub intelligent.

    4. mclaren is just about balance sheet now and bottom line now..

      mclaren is satisfied with being in the series. that’s what happens when you put a marketing guy in charge. its all about flash and not content..

      with Honda there was a golden opportunity (the whole management is different at mclaren).. lost it to AM.

      mclaren are done..

  4. McLaren don’t manufacturer the chassis in IndyCar and Formula E so I am not sure what there is to boast about. They aren’t in the same league as F1 and Le Mans from a manufacturers perspective (tho Le Mans artificial BoP makes it not quite so special any more)

    1. Building the chassis is just one of many variables. Everything else that comes with running a team, and doing the races is still a team effort that allows the better outfits to separate themselves from the others.

      One might compare the spread of the field in qualifying; it’s not too dissimilar from F1.

  5. But while McLaren have enjoyed success in recent years, winning the Italian Grand Prix in 2021 in F1

    This is a very enthusiastic oversell of what they’ve actually done in F1.

    Anyway, “McLaren” as such won’t win anything in Indycar as it has no team’s championship – but one of their drivers might, as they have a pretty solid line-up. That said, they are yet to win this season and O’Ward has dropped back with his poor results in the Indy 500 and the race in Detroit.

    I don’t know about Formula E, but it seems the outfit they joined up with has been competitive so who knows.

  6. Neil (@neilosjames)
    11th June 2023, 15:40

    I’m convinced they’ll be successful in F1 again, some day… but most likely that day will come long after they’ve won an IndyCar title.

  7. I voted for IndyCar because of gut-feeling that this series would be the most likely one for their next victory in motorsport generally.

  8. In their hearts

  9. The F1 drivers are pretty good, but it would be cruel to hang on to them much longer. Maybe they should start a McLaren female spec series with F2ish power, somewhere to go from F1® Academy® – might stand a chance of winning in that.

  10. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    11th June 2023, 19:34

    I expect none, but if they win any of them I suppose it’ll be IndyCar – they seem to have a good team about them and are doing reliably well. Formula E they don’t seem to be doing well, driver lineup is underwhelming. In F1, as a customer, I don’t think they’ll be fighting at the front any time soon and if anything look like they’re sliding backwards. I really can’t see them challenging for an F1 title within the next five years at least.

  11. I don’t understand how easily other series get belittled by some. Yes, there are spec series or ones with much reduced power or range.

    But there are only 20 F1 seats and not all of them go to the best drivers in the world. So there are plenty of exceptionally talented drivers who have to find a home elsewhere. They do this across many of the series mentioned here. And they deserve respect for what they achieve, not to be dismissed because it isn’t F1.

    1. Concur

    2. Indeed, and it’s not like these other series couldn’t easily improve their performance if they wanted to. There’s nothing special about going faster, they just don’t want to for a variety of reasons (costs, reliability, choice of tracks, worse racing, etc.).

      One of the fun things about big races like Daytona or Le Mans is that they bring together all sorts of guys from different series; often even in the same cars. When you have champions like Dixon and Bourdais alongside sportscar veterans like Van der Zande, or GT champions Calado and Pier Guidi alongside F1 guys like Giovinazzi, or even the one-off combination of Johnson, Button and Rockenfeller – it just goes to show there’s a huge amount of driving talent out there and the differences aren’t nearly as big as some want to suggest. These are all very good drivers.

  12. Pretty sure McLaren will eventually win a race in Indycar again, nearly been a year! Championship feels like Alex Rossi needs to settle in, Pato stop crashing or Palou join. Anyone who is putting Indycar down without having watched it is missing out, it is fantastic racing, and yes the chassis element is lacking but to be honest the world only needs 2 totally engineering led series F1 and WEC ideally and then everything else can be letting the most organised teams with the best drivers shine.

  13. I voted none but Indycar is the only slim chance. For F1 success they need a lot of new technical staff on top of a lot of new facilities imo. The McLaren F1 team should have got their house in order before the budget cap, it’ll be a 5-10 years before they can catch up now unless they luck into something in 2026.

  14. Mclaren is in such a sad state, in F1 at least. Supporting the underdog Hakkinen against the might of Schumacher and Ferrari was what got me into F1 as a 10 year old. That’s over 20 years ago and they still haven’t won a constructors championship in the time I’ve followed the sport. They looked to be heading in the right direction in 2021 but my gosh they’ve fallen back a few pegs yet again. I honestly can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t help but feel they’re not going to progress beyond the midfield and just stick around because of Bruce’s legacy. I really feel for Lando. His career is sadly passing him by. Landing a drive at McLaren in his rookie season should have set him up nicely…

  15. I vote for F-E.
    “In my view”:
    F1 requires far too much investment to get a championship soon.

    Indycar because it is a spec series gives a better change, but Penske and Ganassi are powerhouses that are so good at picking the right talent and groom them into champions. Andretti far less. McLaren will need time to build such an environment around their team. Higher chance then in F-1, but still not “soon”.

    F-E has a lot more parity. The ex-Mercedes team was and is good. If they get the power train sorted out the probability of getting a championship is not far off.

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