McLaren takes F1 know how into business world
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Sep 2011   |  9:13 am GMT  |  90 comments

McLaren has today announced an interesting partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s leading phamaceuticals companies.

The deal is all about McLaren applying know how and technology from years of perfecting the racing game to a corporate environment, such as GSK’s business.

It’s something I’ve suggested for some time that F1 could usefully do for the outside world. The sport is all about innovating, adapting, overcoming, planning, reacting quickly, making strategic decisions and building a stable base.

Pat Symonds once said that the attitude of the top engineers in F1 should be, “I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll find out and I’ll do it by next weekend.”

I wrote a piece in the Financial Times in 2007 based on the interview with Symonds, arguing that F1 should export its skills to the business world.

“As an industry what we are good at is change management, “Symonds said. “Everything changes very rapidly, the specification of the car changes weekly, our goal posts move more quickly than financial markets and you have to be good at managing change. That is something we can teach business people.“

Such is the relentless progress in the sport, as a team comes up with an innovation like a blown diffuser or and F Duct wing and everyone else learns the science behind it and reproduces their own version.

So McLaren has done a deal with GSK which will perform some pretty cool functions for the company, helping them plan better and model different scenarios.

For example they will create a replica of their operations unit at the factory, which all teams have and which oversees all strategy planning, simulation after practice sessions and so on during race weekends. The will put this in the GSK London HQ and it will “drive faster decision-making around variables such as wholesaler stocking, inventory management, pricing, responding to retailer requests, competitor activity, and market and customer needs.”

Honda used to send its engineers into F1 for a few years to train them in thinking outside the box and getting things done quickly and they would then pull them back into making road cars.

This McLaren/GSK deal reflects that with one of the main objectives being, “The inspiration and development of GSK’s managers, and the preparation of its managers to be able to make better and more informed business choices while remaining agile and adaptable to ever-changing circumstances.”

The deal runs for an initial period of five years, to 2016. Although it’s not in their statement today, I understand that one of GSK’s brands may well appear on the car, but this is only a small part of the deal. To some of you this story may seem like marketing gobbledygook, but I think it’s worth considering more deeply; it’s great that the unique skills F1 people develop from racing hard against each other, can be applied to a wider purpose.

McLaren have a track record of repurposing technology for other uses, such as the recent Air Traffic Control initiative from its Applied Technologies division. But to repurpose skills is a great idea and more F1 teams should do it.

Featured Innovation
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest


Not sure I'm too chuffed that you think that some of your readers might think it's "gobbledygook" : hope you werent talking about me ! If we remove all the PR-speak and the normal practice of companies adding-in additional words for minimal value, is the basic gist something like this : GSK are paying McLaren in cash/kind with the general desire that something from McLaren in relation to innovation and/or management will transition from McLaren to GSK ?

Any idea what McLaren get from this "strategic partnership"? Free lucozade and panadols would be a given I would assume ? 🙂


CGM, the site appeals to a broad cross section, 'some' probably will not be at all interested in this. Unlike you and I.


Hey fellow F1 fans, there is a great documentary on the BBC iplayer for those in the UK.


Well I think there are some who would think, "Who cares about this corporate stuff, tell us about the racing" and I was just saying that this story is worth thinking about, that's all. No insults intended. You can tell from the comments section that JA on F1 has plenty of savvy readers. There is some branding on the car, I've just learned. That part wasn't clear from the release


After seeing Lewis bouncing off the limiter on the pit straight at Monza without touching his DRS button I feel McLaren should concentrate all of their available biological RAM on their reason for being,"RACING"!


I am an F1 fan but I also run a business in my spare time ;o)

For the “business me”, the article is spot on. I’m going to share it and in particular Pat’s quote

“I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll find out and I’ll do it by next weekend.”

with my team and am going to challenge all of us to adpopt a similar attitude. It's inspiring.

As a McLaren fan, I’m not at all surprised to hear this kind of thinking. Hat's off to them. With this move they've added far more value to a sponsorship deal (as this will surely become) than simple branding and celeb endorsement from the drivers.



I think it's great that you report such news items as pretty much no other website goes this in depth into the structure of F1 teams. F1 is not all about the racing and insights into the paddock such as this are great for the hardcore F1 fan!

The news itself further highlights that the business world, especially the technology sector, is no longer based on a product vs product model. It is now more of a supply chain vs supply chain model with integration between firms happening at many of the entries along the supply chain to help reduce costs and be more efficient. It is only in cases of pure asset specificity where technical parnerships do not occur.


Oh Mclaren, Mclaren, Mclaren... When will they ever stop this nonsense!

Mclaren are a racing team & should concentrate all their energies on beating the drink company & not these useless public relations stunts.

Look when was the last time Mclaren won a WCC title? And how many WDC titles do they have to show for the past 10 years.

So No, the business world doesn't need Mclaren or F1 experts for the matter for they have bankers to handle that sort of thing.

Mclaren should take a page out of Ferrari & Red Bull's books & stop playing games by keeping it simple i.e. Focus on only two things either drinks & F1 or road cars & F1.

Meh, Whitmarsh is *?#@&*


In a sport as competitive as F1 even Mclaren can't always win, but for at least the last 3 years they have put on a show and never failed to improve what turned out to be a less than class leading starter car.

Ferrari gave up, red bull couldn't beat brawn, but Mclaren turned the wick up on Kers and provided top drawer races

Don't be dissin the mighty Mac! Week in week out they are there or there a bouts and they take in top level talent like LH and the awesome JB - gotta love em!

And a final - Martin whit marsh is a true leader, great guyF1 needs him and his like around for a long time to prosper!


Red Bull do a huge amount more than just F1 and Drinks, although it is all towards selling drinks ultimately.


Thery are just value adding, they have a product, why not sell it, make more money to go racing.....


Given some of McLaren's strategy decisions over the last few years I'd advise GSK stock holders to sell.


I think this is an interesting area to explore. McLaren's slump of the early 90's, starting in 1992, appeared to coincide with the launch of the McLaren F1 roadcar. I feel pretty certain at the time that Ron Dennis had even suggested it was indeed a distraction.

So where does this type of caper fit into F1? Is it a necessity to keep the business ticking along, is it just a headline grabbing stunt, and is there a cost to all of this in terms of resources? Who's participating in this side project?

I would think that any peripheral activity that involves people who should be working on designing the car and running the race team is not wise. Aren't F1 people already significantly overworked?


"...they have bankers to handle that sort of thing."

Really? Most bankers are brain dead when it comes to the sort of thinking that is needed for running a technology-based business. Imagination is not in their DNA. If you asked them to start a business all they would be able to do is run another bank -- and as the last few years have shown they're not very good at that.

As you can probably tell I'm not very fond of banks after the way we've seen them behave over the last few years. My best advice would be to do exactly the opposite of what they advise, and if you possibly can avoid borrowing any money from them.


I've got to disagree with you. The very best businesses have strength in depth, this just illustrates the depth of McLaren, it shows they're thinking about their brand and how best leverage that on a global market. F1 isn't just about racing every few weeks. To be sustainable F1 teams need to look at a wider market.


Ron Dennis has already stated that, if all goes according to plan, the F1 side of things will only account for 10% of their business; so they will not (are not) purely be a racing team.


The thing is mclaren only has mclaren so it has to think outside the box. Red bull are a drinks company? Ferrari are funded by a rather large car manufacturer. They have to do this kind of think to survive.


Ahh but this is perfect... McLaren have noticed that it is the power of the an energy drink that brings around wins and championships and so have brought on board GSK. Hopefully with the branding of lucozade on the McLarens they will go faster and win!

On a slightly more serious note, I think that this is good. Surely any money coming into the team is quite good and for once this is in exchange for services from the engineers rather than adding to the drivers publicity programmes. Plus you never know the engineers may also learn something from GSK, after all you don't become one of the worlds biggest companies without some know-how!


Interesting piece James. F1 teams need to think about multiple revenue streams, and McLaren is already ahead of the game.

Now, how about a piece on Williams Hybrid Power ... ?


Cool, thanks.

Oh, and now that you've discovered that GSK will have branding on the cars, this is officially a racing-related issue !


"To some of you this story may seem like marketing gobbledygook"

I don't find that phrase patronising at all, because to me it is just marketing gobbledygook.

I'm not convinced this arrangement really amounts to much more than an opportunity for a few of GSK's high flyers to get paddock passes and enjoy a slither of the kudos that comes when you associate yourself with an F1 team.

I'm not convinced either that bringing pharmaceuticals to market shares many of the skills used in trying to second guess Adrian Newey. I suppose I'll be proved wrong when a GSK boffin is caught in a copyshop with Astra Zeneca's recipe book. 😉


Andy, please note:

slither [ˈslɪðə]


1. to move or slide or cause to move or slide unsteadily, as on a slippery surface

2. (intr) to travel with a sliding motion


a slithering motion

I think you mean "sliver"

sliver [ˈslɪvə]


1. a thin piece that is cut or broken off lengthwise; splinter

2. (Clothing, Personal Arts & Crafts / Textiles) a loose strand or fibre obtained by carding


'Slither';'Sliver' -- sounds much the same when uttered by the yoof of today, innit?


Thanks for the English lesson. 🙂

FWIW I knew that... Deep down.

Homophones aren't my strong suit though. Discreet / discrete, dispatch / despatch are others I muddle on occasion.


100% in agreement with you.

In this day and age, I find it hard to believe that a big pharmaceutical company doesn't know how to jump through hoops and deal with moving goal-posts. Considering all the political, market and marketing, approval, development and testing regulations they have to deal with, it could be argued that they actually know more about moving goal-posts than McLaren. And they can certainly teach McLaren a thing or two about legal goal-post challanges.

Unless GSK has some awareness increasing or reflex accelerating drug in development which passes legal test and Lewis and Jenson will be using to win 2012 WDC, this is nothing more than a bit of GSK marketing budget being spent by a guy at GSK who likes F1. Well done McLaren marketing team in signing up another partner. Now we all know about it, and are sure to cheer on McLaren that much more because of GSK's logos on the car.


You might be surprised, I once worked for a huge multinational, and they were as disorganised as Mclarens pit strategies..... wait a second....


I work in Pharmaceuticals (a rival to GSK) and I can say that Change Management is one of the most challenging and high risk areas for these regulated businesses. If it truly is an opportunity to model systems and apply new techniques its a smart move by GSK.

I would have thought project management and teamwork oriented technology/techniques would also benefit significantlly from an F1 mentality.

Great to see articles like this. Mclarens foresight and business acumen is to be applauded and encouraged.

An article on William's activities would also be interesting. It all contributes to what Ron Dennis calls 'UK plc', showcasing the wonderful skills and intelligence of the UK specialist economy.


Thanks, a fascinating reply, sadly, somewhat contrasting with the replies from the Forum Raid Trolls.

All the more illuminative for it.


Hmmm I do wonder if James will be writing a story in a couple of years about McLaren staff quitting after spending 2 years battling entrenched corporate bureaucracy at GSK.

The final straw being when they had to fill in a business justification for additional chairs for the ops team they are attempting to assemble.


This is a very interesting deal, as someone who works in the pharmaceutical industry. There's a lot to be gained on the drug supply and logistics side of the industry, though Perceptive Informatics have been doing some interesting things in that area for years.

I'd be surprised if the partnership ended there, too. I work in drug development and over recent years I've seen a marked decline in the quality and efficiency of the protocols and processes produced by pharmaceutical companies and research organisations. A company like McLaren would be in a position to cast a very critical eye over the way GSK go about their R&D, although the legal, regulatory and ethical environment pharmaceutical research operates in is a real minefield.

One last point about the possibility of McLaren running GSK branding - as a British pharmaceutical company (or more accurately, a multinational maintaining a token UK headquarters), GSK are bound by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry code of practice and the ABPI keep a very firm grip on the advertising of drugs. GSK would be free to advertise their non-drug and over-the-counter products wherever they want, so their beverage, dental hygiene and smoking cessation brands (for example) could pop up on a McLaren. The ABPI wouldn't allow them to advertise their really big earners, their asthma, diabetes and anti-viral drugs, in such a public and visible arena as F1.


Interesting development although I feel that quick decisions/reactions/innovations on a daily/weekly/annual might hit a brick wall in a huge company like GSK.

Maybe GSK could make a new drug for McLaren and call it "Speed" although not sure that would pass the FIA!! ( or the police).



Sorry completely off topic but are you (or have you and I've missed it) going to provide a mobile version of the website?

Now that it has become essential reading I find that I have to expand the page enough to hit the link then expand again. Quite a chore for someone struggling with fat figures like me!




Fat fingers I suppose? Bless auto-correct!


Not auto-correct in fairness, just fat fingers!


by next weekend, eh?......-)


James you have to wonder some times where F1 is actually heading and will the mix end up blurring the real intent of F1. I may be wrong and I can see the positives and the negatives of it all especially to a struggling team financially as in essence they all do the same thing just with different budgets.

All things said and done F1 is very much like the jones's in that what one does the others follow but try to be that little bit better. I could imagine this initiative will be taken on by other teams.


Interesting story...who made the connection, I wonder?


It's fine if McLaren employ extra staff to perform this training function, but a really bad idea if it involves any of the people who are supposed to be working on F1 cars - they cannot be in two places at once. How many man-hours is it going to take to prepare and deliver this training?


Hiya James, what is the ATC intiative?


I find this deal very interesting. F1 must have alot to contribute to other world. F1 teams have become more sophisticated rapidly this past decade, and I reckon McLaren is one of few teams that lead this innovation. Its operational expertise in fast changing environment of F1 can certainly be applied to many other fields.

The more F1 and other industries interact with each other beyond rather simple sponsor relationship or technical supply/partnership, the better it is for F1.


Good change management practice is an incredibly valuable tool and more and more FTSE 100 companies are placing emphasis on this.

Once you know the theory and core principles it can be applied to any industry.

Mclaren is a great example of experienced company demonstrating clear continuous improvement.

As a long standing F1 fan and a certified change professional I found your article very interesting!


Thanks James I like this part of F1 as well it gives us more insight behind the scenes.


Excellent initiative. Pharma is my industry and it's a fantastically competitive arena - not only are drug companies battling against each other; they also have to deal with a huge array of regulators - as well as the limitations of scientific understanding.

As for what GSK will get back - besides advertising - I can see the occasional race visit or Woking tour being an outstanding way to reward high achieving staff. They might also anticipate that this type of initiative will differentiate them from other pharma companies and make it easier to attract the best talent.

It's very typical of the style Andrew Witty has brought in since 2008.


Pfizer and its famous viagra brand are perfect partners for a F1 team. F1 cars that inherently have phallic symbolism (Just like tanks and guns) can be perfect billboards for the product like viagra...


It is indeed the comments section where you often are able to come up with some humor to make you chuckle a bit. And that is always enjoyed. Thank you for providing that chuckle today NAK.

But honestly, you are not correct about Viagra being a perfect for F1. FIA regulations clearly forbit driver aids, or movable aerodynamic devices with exception of DRS.

Also, who would want to be the driver in the Viagra car? I understand the desire to be in F1, and the fact that many if not most of the luxury cars many of these brands sell are to the same demographic as Viagra. But is Vettel, Lewis, Jenson an ideal spokesman for Viagra? And you know there is no chance in the blue moon that Schumi is getting into a Viagra car. So that leaves...Rubens?


Partnered by De La Rosa?


Although we digress - surely David CoultHARD would be the best choice? 😉


Hi James,

Good for Mclaren, I really respect the way they look for new ideas and ways to build and grow their business. I hope this works out for them.

While I'm here, thanks for your return comment about Massa the other day. You were right of course about the Singapore GP and the way he left the pits with the hose attached. I suppose my proposition was that, had the fake accident not happened, Massa would not have been screaming into the pits out of sequence, and made the mistake. In my opinion, the likelihood is that had the accident not occurred, Massa would have scored in Singapore at least the single point he turned out to need at the end of the season. I believe I am right that had FM and LH been equal on points, FM would have won due to having more race wins in the season.


I love the business stuff on this site - in fact, I'll go as far as to say I find it more interesting that the usual driver-related stuff on F1 sites. I'm not bothered if so-and-so reckons he's got a chance of a podium at the next race, or if this is 'his year'... Whatever. But the industry insider angle is deeply appealing to read about.

To that end James, given how long an advocate you've been of the whole F1-skills-injected-into-business notion, you should at some point set up a consultancy, leveraging your contacts and brand. If you had, say, half a dozen current or former engineers / designers / managers / logistics experts etc from a variety of teams on your books, you could brand it along the lines of 'our expert consultants have won 27 races and 3 world championships between them - we can definitely apply that world class, cutting edge ability to your business'...

Get a skeleton office, posh lady as receptionist / office manager, a hungry commission-based biz dev manager to attract the new clients, and Bob's your uncle.

Why not?!


Ditto the interest in things business-related.


Thanks, we're busy enough on the digital media side already!


Pfffftttt was Bernie Ecclestone 'busy enough' with Brabham to eschew taking over F1? As Eames said in Inception, 'you must never be afraid to think a little bigger dear boy'...



This partnership makes sense, very much seems that Mclaren is basically a single purpose efficiency factory. Not sure why, but I do not feel the same at other F1 teams.

Still I do think that financial markets change much more rapidly than anything in F1.



Do we know specifically what it is that McLaren will be sharing with GSK? Is it a specific piece of software, for example, such as a Bayesian modelling tool, which can be applied to GSK's stock-distribution and pricing strategies? That would be a natural adaptation of McLaren's Bayesian, race-strategy software.


Williams Have dabbled in corporate training as a money spinner, you can go on team building days at Williams (amongst other things I believe).

It would be interesting to examine the differing cultures/management styles of the f1 teams, when attending testing sessions in the early 2000s I was amazed how Ferrari, McLaren and Williams seemed very straight laced whilst Renault and BAR Honda had a more jovial sparky atmosphere.

The conventional risk adverse corporate culture at Toyota has been cited as one of the possible reasons for their failure to achieve what they should have in f1.


I'm particularly impressed by the way businesses manage to repurpose the English language.


Interesting interview about it on Sky news yesterday. Dennis pointing that F1 will be become a minor part of the business in the future.
Mosely [mod]-ing Ron is probably the best thing that could of happened for the Mclaren business.


Vodafone Lucozade McLaren Mercedes - that has a nice ring to it!

I love the reference to Pat Symonds. This guy has so much to offer. What an amazing lateral thinker he is. I can't wait to see him properly back in F1.

As for McLaren, I think this is a novel idea with regards to selling its valuable skills to the non-F1 world.
Maybe a direct consequence of the Resource Restriction Agreement?


The Royal family of Bahrain and now Glaxosmith. McLaren certainly do have some interesting bedfellows.


Philip Morris trumps them all.


This is very interesting, the press release is here:

Looking at product, the two are remarkably different, in that one is able to push engineering to the limit and immediately put it into practice, while the other faces many years of testing evaluation and seeking of official approval in each of the target market countries.

True the McLaren engineering skill may well be able to improve efficiency on the "pill" production lines, and strategy planning, however I cannot help thinking that input from a Japanese car company could give them a better result. Many of the procedures are specific to mass production which is what GSK need. Statistical Process Control (SPC) is not what you will find in F1 but it is very relevant to mass production.

Problem solving is not the exclusive domain of F1, Ford Motor Company has a very famous (in the industry) 5 step procedure for tackling all sorts of problems. (The general 3 step is perhaps better known outside the automotive field.)

However the inclusion of rigorous FMEA in many areas of the company would be well worth implementing. It is very important to do FMEA in the project design stage. Advance quality planning, including planning your STC means that when you finally get to make your product, it will work safely, and be controlled and consistent.

There are a number of things GSK can get from the strategic relationship, but I cannot see what McLaren are getting in return.(Will we see Lucozade instead of Red Bull being drunk everywhere, I suppose a new brand image of competitive racing isotonic drink is possible with McLaren staff all to be seen guzzling it on telly, much reduced telly next year of course, but that product already exists!)

Now if McLaren were simply to say that they are selling their engineering expertise in the same way that Lotus Engineering have done for many years and that GSK has become a customer, that would make sense to me.


As a former shareholder, I wish them luck, they are going to need it. Personally I'd take little real advice from a company with profits of £15 Million to that of £2 Billion. Re-addressing GSKs woeful short-termism approach for sorting out their drug delivery pipeline is is more pressing need than giving managers more layers of six-sigma type rubbish to try to deploy.

Still, I do like a lucozade from time to time.


Nearly 100 Grams of sugar in a single bottle. I say cheers! That will stick it to Red Bull. Who needs wings when you have a jet booster?


James, great idea but the closest business to F1 in terms of engineering at least is Aerospace. In my 20 years experience in Aerospace, the biggest problem encountered is resistance to change. The people management skills in F1 will be based on the assumption that everyone is competitive, wants the team to win and will do everything asked of them to achieve it with a clear hierarchy. After 20 years working in Aerospace I have never seen anything even approaching that mindset, management teams often talk like that, but they are sometimes ambushed by the people who really make things happen, the cultural differences are huge. It will need a real hearts and minds attitude shift to work effectively.

I hope this works out for McLaren and GSK and they overcome any obstacles. I can't see how the UK economy wouldn't benefit from a little more urgency, and more of a "can do" attitude.


Very saddened that McClaren would enter into a busisness agreement with a company that, "hides" research that shows some of it's products cause more problems then they cure. That pays out millions each year in out of court settlements with patients affected by it's products. Maybe a little more research and due diligence should have happened..

Maybe take a look at the book "The Evidence, However, Is Clear: The Seroxat Scandal" by Bob Fiddaman, very eye opening...


A great area to look into. Let's not forget, for years (and still today, in the case of Ferrari) F1 teams took money from tobacco companies - I'm not really aware of any F1 journos challenging them about the appropriateness of this, even when some highly alarming facts about the industry ethics started to emerge.

I don't know enough about GSK to comment, but it does raise the question - would any team in F1 turn money down? In the competitive climate of courting sponsors, is there any room for consideration of whether the company is an ethical business?


Everyone's cash is good in F1. Personally I don't see anything wrong with it. It's a product we enjoy and they are contributing to it. The ethically questionable companies will be out there anyway.

For example, I never started smoking even after becoming a Schumi fan in his Ferrari days. I always found it funny that they pumped all that cash and had as their face Schumi - a super fit non smoker.


I used to agree completely. In the past I always wholeheartedly supported the right of tobacco companies to be in F1 - it's a legal product after all.

I've changed my views entirely now though. I don't want to be a head-in-the-sand fan. It's important to know whose money provides our entertainment.


Gimme money and I’ll find out and I’ll do it by next weekend. Oh, it's about passion for the job, to be like a F1 engineer! I miss the pitladies in this equation. Without it sounds just like some corporate's sectarian 'strengh through joy'-philosophy.


Please James, if you have the information can you tell us the times of Bianchi and Perez, who are at Fiorano in the F60 car. I hope Bianchi can show, his real talent.


Perez had two days of running in Ferrari's simulator at Maranello before completing 46 laps of Fiorano - with his best time being 1m00.650s. Ferrari also gave Jules Bianchi a run in the F60, with his best effort after 70 laps being 1m00.213s - although he was on a different testing programme to Perez.



I'm guessing GSK get technical knowhow as described in the press release and McLaren get money. Pretty straight forward. Oh and a few more VIP passes for GSK management of course.

One other way I can imagine these two endeavours mesh is complex rule books and finding ways to get the best out of them. Although F1 is known for finding ways of circumventing the rules which could be interesting in the Pharma industry!




GSK make Lucozade, which was the Red Bull of the 1980's.


Great article. It makes me think of the pre seasons of 2009 and 2011 where it was obvious that they had built a rubbish car. In 09 they tried to fix what they produced but in 11 in simple terms they learnt to copy part of a rival. However to do that they had to learn from there mistake in 09 and realise that sometimes things are just sat in front of you - a nice picture of red bulls rear end!!

I remember most on this page vilifying whitmarsh after he announced that they had found over a second. Whatever mclaren did in that short time after Bahrain was cancelled proved your point about pat symonds.


Good news for Bianchi fans, Jules did a lap half a second faster than the best lap of Perez. For a driver, who doesn't drive a F1 car all year, i have to say, that's his performance is pretty impressive. Bianchi is coming alive, and if this young french men is faster than Checo, than i think there is many driver who are slower than him or may be Bianchi is fatser than them. Bravo Jules !!!


That wonderful something called 'initiative'. F1 thrives on it, but it's scarce as flying pigs in many other quarters, government, for example


Of all the companies for McLaren to get into bed with! SmithKline would be bottom of my guess list!

Can't quite correlate the two - like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher!


As a GSK employee and McLaren fan I find this a hugely exciting deal - I'm eagerly anticipating my trip to the MTC already! I agree to an extent with those who've expressed doubts about McLarens ability to transfer it's innovation techniques into a FTSE top 5 company, but I'm certain there are areas where it can work, particularly in the Consumer Healthcare brands that aren't subject to the same levels of regulation and corporate inertia. Combined with some prominent branding on a front running car and it's a wining deal from our perspective; I just hope McLaren aren't expanding into too many diverse business ventures too quickly.

Ps - This is not the first time GSK have been involved in F1; Niquitin sponsored Williams in the early/mid 90s.


I understand that in general Formula One Teams have to have talented people and thought processes in place for "change management". Formula One is a very insular and segregated business and I'm not so sure the thought processes utilized in Formula One can be expanded out to the "Real World". Just look at Mclaren's hiring of Sam Michael as an example. He, by Formula One Standards, was a failure at Williams yet Mclaren scoop him up because he's available and has experience in "The Business". I'm not so sure a competitor in "The Real Business World" would be interested in a Sam Michael type.


Just as long as they don't partner an investment bank I'm happy, the last thing we need is the F1 mindset encouraging more rule bending rouge traders, though we can always do with plenty more rule bending in F1.


'Rouge traders' -- are they the ones who powder their faces and wear loads of lipstick?


There is no shortage of companies / governments around that would benefit from

1) What Pat Symonds once said that the attitude of the top engineers in F1 should be, “I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll find out and I’ll do it by next weekend.” Basically get of your butt and make it happen

2) Access to decision making processes that are based on accurate real time data.... most of us only ever dream of accurate real time (end of the month if you are lucky) data, especially in the world of supply chain, logistics and operations.


Simon's aerospace comment is absolutely key to the success of this initiative by GSK. I used to sell high-end Computer Aided Engineering products to the aerospace industry but had to take them to our Formula One customers to illustrate how they were used to collapse design and development times. The aerospace mindset was typically unable to adapt their thinking and behaviour sufficiently to take the same benefit. I wonder if the pharma' industry would have the same issue.


With aerospace, safety, reliability and serviceability of vehicle is extremely important. Perhaps reduction of design and development times risks safety and reliability by providing a tool which forces humans to overlook possible failure points in the design due to speed of design cycle.

Just a thought.

Faster is not always better in all industries. And if I recall correctly, McLaren has all to often in recent memory compromised reliability for "faster". Just ask Kimi.


It shouldn't be lost that this is not the first venture of this sort that McLaren has jumped into.

They had a partnership with BAE Systems for over eleven years. BAE helped develop McLaren's Aero and Composite capabilities, and in return McLaren helped transform BAE manufacturing processes. I work for another defence prime, and have been to BAE Insyte at Broad Oak on several occasions and the improvements there in recent years have been staggering. Their use of SAP (another McLaren partner) in the manufacturing areas is incredible, they really embrace it - all job times are automatically recorded and every step is fully traceable. Many organisations use SAP in different business functions, but I haven't seen it so effectively used as at BAE - in no small part thanks to McLaren. McLaren have also helped BAE develop an agile manufacturing system, increasing flexibility and shortening set up times for manufacturing areas.

It seems McLaren will be doing something similar with GSK, they're getting plenty of money in this deal and are expanding themselves into other industries. Smiles all round!


Hi James,

some weeks ago i came across some news about a partnership btw McLaren and NATS related to the ground movement of aircraft, but i unluckily lost the link. Have you got any clue where i can find some more?



I love the story James. I live on a small Island in the Caribbean and we don't always have what you have in the real world so at my place of business we use that same approach ( I don't know but I will find out and have it for you next week). Sometimes people who don't have to deal with these type of things just don't understand. F1 has added so much technology to the world and unless someone reports it we just think it is racing. I for one love that you go so deep and tell us what happens behind the scenes.


Mclaren should take a page out of Ferrari & Red Bull’s books & stop playing games by keeping it simple i.e. Focus on only two things either drinks & F1 or road cars & F1.

Top Tags
SEARCH Innovation
JA ON F1 In association with...
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer

Sign up to receive the latest F1 News & Updates direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!