5 July 2022
Nicole W, Lower Sixth
On Thursday 30 June, members of Woldingham’s STEM Society were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of McLaren Racing’s headquarters. Our tour, led by two of McLaren’s engineers, started with a look at the copious trophies won by McLaren and its drivers over the years, including World Drivers’ Championships won by Lewis Hamilton and Ayrton Senna.
Our tour guides gave us a great insight into what is like to work for a Formula 1 team, describing how they can build an entire F1 car in just two weeks and sometimes work 18-hour days to fix damaged caused by crashes in time for a car to be driven again in the next race.
After being asked not to take photos (lest their designs be stolen by rival teams), we were taken into the garage to get a close look at the cars being raced by McLaren drivers this season. We learned just how much detail goes into creating the cars, such as placing gold foil around the engine to cool the fuel and the layers of carbon fibre that have to be placed individually to ensure strength. We also got to hold some parts of the exterior of an F1 car to feel just how lightweight they are.
However, our time in the garage wasn’t just focused on engineering, as our tour guides were keen to explain that a lot more goes into creating a successful F1 team. One example was finance. Due to new regulations, F1 teams have a spending cap of $150 million each year. This initially seemed a lot, but when you factor in that this includes travel all over the world, drivers’ salaries and repairs to the cars, you realise that it is not actually that much. Especially when you consider that the floor of a single F1 car costs $1 million to make. We were told that that within McLaren there are teams of people who have to decide which parts they can afford to make and replace and how to allocate the budget.
We then got to see the evolution of the F1 cars driven by famous drivers, like Kimi Raikkonen and Niki Lauda, and understand how increasing knowledge of aerodynamics, propelled by innovation in computing, has led to the shape of the cars changing drastically. Since the 1980s, cars have grown by almost 2m in length and are much less boxy than they used to be. We also learnt how innovation in Formula 1 leads to innovation for road cars – a great example being that the invention of the seatbelt began in F1 before it became a law for all cars to have them.
Finally, we were able to see and hold the actual shoes race suit and helmet of driver Daniel Ricciardo (which everyone was very enthusiastic about) before being given McLaren baseball caps. This was a very exciting trip that gave us a fascinating insight into the inner workings of a Formula 1 team and inspired us in our planned future careers in STEM.