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Formula E

McLaren boss takes lead of FE teams’ body as Gen4 calls loom

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

McLaren’s Ian James has become the new chairperson for Formula E’s Teams and Manufacturers Association (FETAMA) as the crucial period of forming the Gen4 rules set for 2026 starts to evolve.

He follows Sylvain Filippi, the managing director of Envision Racing who served his two-year term after former Mahindra team principal Dilbagh Gill, Jaguar’s James Barclay and Andretti’s Roger Griffiths previously chaired the group between 2015 and 2022.

James stayed on through McLaren’s takeover of the former Mercedes Formula E works programme to remain team principal into its new era.

He was voted into the position last December and has chaired several recent meetings to discuss concepts for what the next stage of Formula E will look like in 2026.

While this is initially focusing on the sporting parameters, the technical necessities have to be decided later this year so that the official tendering process can begin.

James confirmed to The Race that he was the new chairperson for FETAMA and that a meeting in London last week brought positivity over what series participants want to see in the fourth iteration of the championship.

“It’s a privilege to have been voted on by your peers,” James told The Race.

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“Sylvain did such a good job of navigating the whole journey to getting Gen3 up and running and supporting the FIA and FEO through that process but at the same time looking after the interests of the teams and the manufacturers.”

James said there was an ongoing process of ensuring that Formula E continued dialogue with both Formula E Operations and the FIA “about the lessons learned from Gen3 and making sure that Gen4 is as good as it can be”.

Although its racing debut is almost four years away, the processes and milestones for the Gen4 project are happening now with meetings held at Cape Town last month and the London gathering last week laying the ground for how Gen4 will be conceived.

“That now comes down to the decisions that are being taken fairly quickly to make sure that we stick within the timeframe that allows us to develop a product – I don’t mean just the car but the series itself – that’s going to see us maximise our potential within Formula E,” said James.

FETAMA, although playing a crucial role in future decisions, ultimately doesn’t have the responsibility for delivering new rules sets. That is the remit of the FIA and FEO but the range of issues around the Gen3 project that have manifested in a series of technical and supply challenges have re-energised FETAMA’s power in informing the next-generation regulations.

“There’s a huge amount of experience and expertise within the manufacturers and the teams that we can leverage to support the process going forwards,” added James.

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“It’s a good time to be involved and we’re looking to make sure we’re putting the work in as a group to highlight what we feel is the right direction, and then again, working together with the FIA and FEO to realise that potential.”

Although James acknowledged the challenges faced by the teams in recent months he said that the Gen3 sporting spectacle was “a step forward compared with Gen2 and I think it’s got a huge amount of potential that we can continue to unlock over the next two, three, four years.

“The dialogue at the moment is very open. I’ve been surprised, pleasantly surprised, at how collaborative it has been and how aligned the various parties are.

“This is the nice thing about Formula E; we’re still not at the stage where the politics and the money is at a level where it starts to hamper the process.

“Again, we need to take advantage of that and make sure that we’re using the expertise that is in this paddock to get the best possible product.”

The calling of the London meeting just two weeks after the ones in Cape Town, which included FIA and FEO staff on that occasion, came because FETAMA wanted to “give an indication of what we feel the high-level target should be for that going into Gen4”, according to James.

This will include team stakeholders and board members of the OEMs to critique the initial concepts of what Formula E could be in Gen4.

“What I don’t want to happen is in two, three weeks’ time or two, three months’ time is that somebody comes around the corner and goes ‘actually it’s not what our organisation wants’,” said James.

“If we can get that in place then we’ll sit down again together with the FIA and FEO, not to dictate what it is that we want but to advise what we feel would be the most beneficial route forward on those three key areas.

“If we can do that then we’ve got a voice in the process.”

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The Race understands that recently appointed Formula E sporting and technical advisor Dieter Gass was not in attendance at the London meeting due to his role at the Jota World Endurance Championship team at Sebring clashing.

Gass will advise Formula E, and act as a conduit to the FIA in the processes leading up to Gen4.

Like former Audi motorsport chief Gass, James has recent and in-depth knowledge of how manufacturers work in Formula E via his time at the Mercedes EQ operation between 2019 and 2022.

He believes that both his own and Gass’ experience will only be a benefit to the Gen4 programme.

“It helps coming from a manufacturer background but it also helps I think now being more of an independent team to see it from both perspectives,” said James.

“The more we can support the process, the better, and then we also have no excuses when we get two, three years down the line, to be unhappy with the outcome.

“Hopefully if we’ve been engaged on that, and that’s the intention, it will be positive for everybody.”

A further meeting of the FETAMA members will be held in Sao Paulo today.

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