Speed Demons and Dream Teams: Neom McLaren

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The fifth edition of our Speed Demons and Dream Teams is here, and today, we’re tackling Neom McLaren.

Photo credit: Formula E Media Bank / Sam Bloxham

After two very successful seasons, the team is back with a revamped feel to it. Today, we’re giving you a little insight into Neom McLaren and it’s two drivers: Jake Hughes and Rene Rast.

The McLaren Formula E Team was established by acquiring the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team. McLaren Racing and Mercedes-Benz have reached an agreement for the reigning ABB FIA Formula E World Championship team to become part of the McLaren Racing family. The objective of this move is to enhance McLaren Racing’s understanding of electric vehicle (EV) technology as part of their sustainability journey, while also expanding their reach to a more diverse global audience.

When the team was still competing under the Mercedes-EQ marque, it made an impressive entry into all-electric street racing in Season 6, achieving a debut victory and finishing third in the Teams’ standings. The following season, the teams main aspiration was the championship title, a goal they successfully accomplished, with Nyck de Vries securing the top spot. The season after, they’ve done it again – this time with Stoffel Vandoorne. What a campaign they’ve had going on!

The Mercedes-EQ team began its Formula E journey in the 2018/19 season as a works team affiliated with HWA Racelab. In their first year, they secured one podium finish with Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett. In the following season, the team transitioned to be a full works team, with Ian James taking on the role of team principal.

In the initial races of the season in Diriyah, Vandoorne achieved two third-place finishes, showcasing the team’s potential. In the 2020/21 season, de Vries had a remarkable start in Diriyah, winning the first-ever night race in Formula E and the season opener as an FIA World Championship. He continued his strong performance with a victory in Valencia and two podium finishes in London, ultimately clinching the championship title in the season finale in Berlin, which was Mercedes’ home race. Vandoorne’s victory in Rome and podium finish in the finale contributed to the team winning the Teams’ championship as well. The season after, a consistent performance put by Vandoorne led to him winning the championship title, second year in a row for Mercedes-EQ.

For Season 2022/2023, the team races in the championship with the new name of Neom McLaren Formula E Team, and has a brand new lineup of drivers: Jake Hughes and Rene Rast. Ian James is still leading the team as he did during Mercedes-EQ days.

Jake Hughes

Jake Hughes, who previously served as a test and reserve driver, finally got a full time seat as a McLaren driver this season. Born in Birmingham, England, Hughes had a rapid ascent in motorsport despite starting his racing career relatively late. He made his professional karting debut at the age of 16 in 2010. After just two years in karting, he transitioned to single-seaters, initially competing in a few Formula Renault races before securing a full-time drive in the inaugural BRDC Formula 4 Championship in 2013. Hughes had an impressive campaign, winning four races and achieving six podium finishes on his way to claiming the championship title.

Following his success in Formula 4, Hughes spent two seasons competing in Formula Renault, where he continued to show his talent by securing victories and consistently challenging for the championship title across multiple series. His best performance came in the 2015 Formula Renault 2.0 Alps, where he finished second overall. He then moved up to Formula 3, participating in various championships such as FIA Formula 3, GP3, and FIA F3 European Championship. Despite narrowly missing out on the F3 Asia title, Hughes showcased his skills by winning nine races in every appearance he made.

Since 2020, Hughes has been involved in the FIA Formula 2 Championship while also fulfilling a simulator role for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team. Hughes has previous experience in Formula E, combining his simulator duties with Mercedes in Formula 1 as a test and reserve driver for both the championship-winning Mercedes-EQ team and ROKiT Venturi Racing. He also took part in the 2020 Marrakesh Rookie Test, achieving the seventh best time among a highly competitive lineup that included current race winners and new rivals such as Nick Cassidy and Norman Nato.

So far into this season, Hughes has been highly impressive as a rookie, scoring a pole position two times and accumulating 45 points in 9 races, despite McLaren not being the most competitive machine in the field. Also, we spoke with Jake about his debut season so far in Berlin, you can find the whole interview here.

Photo credit: Neom McLaren Media Centre

Rene Rast

Rene Rast, known for his speed and determined driving style, is making his return to Formula E, joining McLaren for their first full venture into the all-electric street racing championship. Born in Minden, Germany, Rene Rast began his professional karting career at the age of 10, participating in national competitions. He achieved notable success in 2001 by winning the North German ICA Junior Kartcup and followed it up the next year with a victory in the German ICA Junior Kartcup.

Rast established a strong and fruitful partnership with Audi in the DTM (German touring car championship). In his debut season in 2017, he showcased impressive consistency throughout the year, culminating in his first championship title. The following season, Rast finished second in the DTM standings despite an outstanding performance in the latter stages of the championship, where he secured six consecutive victories. Rast went on to defend his DTM title in the subsequent year, delivering commanding performances with seven wins and six podium finishes across 18 rounds. In 2020, Rast concluded Audi’s tenure in the DTM with a remarkable achievement, becoming the only driver to clinch three consecutive titles and establishing himself as Audi’s most successful factory driver.

Aside from his successes in the DTM, Rast has achieved various other racing accolades. He enjoyed a string of championship wins in the Porsche Supercup from 2010 to 2012. Furthermore, he triumphed in endurance events such as the grueling 24 Hours Nurburgring and the Spa 24 Hours in 2014, as well as securing overall honors in the 2014 ADAC GT Masters.

Rast made his initial foray into all-electric street racing when he stepped in to replace Daniel Abt at Audi in the e-tron FE06 for the remaining races of the 2019/20 season. Prior to this, he had already gained experience in Formula E by substituting for Antonio Felix da Costa at Super Aguri during the 2016 Berlin E-Prix, where he achieved his maiden podium finish in Round 10 at Tempelhof. Impressed by his performance in the season finale in Berlin, Audi included Rast in their lineup for the 2020/21 Formula E season. His notable achievement that year was a second-place finish in Puebla, contributing to Audi’s 1-2 finish as he crossed the line behind teammate Lucas di Grassi.

Now, Rast returned to Formula E with unfinished business, as he joined McLaren for Season 9, marking the team’s debut in the championship. After the first half of the season, Rast is currently 10th in the standings just behind his teammate, and he stood on the podium in Diriyah, where he finished third.

Photo credit: Neom McLaren Media Centre

Despite not being the most challenging team this season, McLaren is bringing some solid performance to the field of Formula E. In what position will the team finish their first season in the electric championship? We’re curious to know what you think – what’s your opinion on the drivers? And if you’re a fan – what are your favorite fun facts about them? We’re looking forward to reading the comments. For now – enjoy the race, wherever you are ✨