"A lot of the teams and suppliers permeated out of Silverstone, and
the UK has had a great heritage of creative design engineers and
Now, the innovation that comes from competing to build a winning car
is being applied elsewhere. As well as McLaren Automotive, which
produces luxury road cars for the super-rich, spinoff McLaren Applied
Technologies (MAT) is using some of the lessons learned from F1 in other
McLaren boss Ron Dennis says that while "racing will
always be at our heart", the demands of the sport put it at the
forefront of broader innovation. "Formula One breaks new ground and
other industries follow. And because of the concentration of Formula One
in the UK, we have a significant advantage."
MAT works with companies in several industries, such as healthcare, but it is also transferring its expertise to other sports.
UK has punched above its weight in recent Olympic Games, and a small
amount of that success is attributable to Formula One," says Dennis. He
cites McLaren's work in sports including cycling, sailing, canoeing,
rowing, bobsleigh and skeleton, where its engineers help with improving
equipment and enhancing the way athletes approach training and racing.
"Across those sports," he adds, "we have helped win 32 medals, 17 of
which have been gold."
Other F1 teams are diversifying, too.
Williams has taken motorsport expertise into sectors including mass
transport, particularly the use of energy-efficient technologies.
Williams, deputy team principal and commercial director at Williams,
says the cluster of high-value, hi-tech engineering companies in
motorsport valley dispels the notion that "Britain doesn't make things
Ultimately though, while the glamour of F1 racing will
undoubtedly attract aspiring engineers, the sport can have only a
limited impact on the engineering skills shortage bemoaned by Britain's
"For many years," says Dennis, "if you were bright
enough to become a top-class engineer, you were also bright enough to
know that there were probably better career options available in the
City. Formula One has always been a relatively small, but important,
counter to that suction pump of talent.