McLaren Win Prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise

McLaren Electronic Systems (MESL), part of the McLaren Group, have won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for achievement in international trade.

The company previously won a Queen’s Award in 2009, then a recognition for its innovation in, and development of, leading-edge control and data systems.

MESL is best known as the Official ECU (engine control unit) Supplier to the FIA Formula One World Championship, NASCAR Sprint Cup and IZOD IndyCar series. However, with growing sales (increasing 60% since 2008), they’re quickly moving into other areas which include hybrid and powertrain technologies, FAA approved aircraft controls and, even, data and monitoring technologies for mass transit systems.

On receiving the award, Dr Peter van Manen, MD of McLaren Electronic Systems said “We are delighted to have been recognised in the Queen’s Awards for the growth of our international trade. We are proud that our technology is at the heart of international motor racing and that are able to translate it into other important markets. This is a wonderful endorsement for the reputation of McLaren and British development and manufacturing and will help energise our strategy even further to develop the business further in new markets and sectors.”

Bahrain GP shows racing is back on the agenda

Following last week’s Chinese Grand Prix, a busload of F1 people, fans and otherwise, could be heard on Twitter bemoaning the oddly neutered racing in that race. Mea culpa here – this column also contributed to that racket. But a few things in yesterday’s Bahrain Grand Prix restored the post-2010 consensus that wheel-to-wheel action is good.

Firstly, the fact that tyres did not wholly dictate the race for anyone. It was a fair fight, which Sebastian Vettel won in his habitual style. But those who fear the beginning of another hegemonic season should consider the winning margin – under ten seconds. This, then, no 40 second romp. Raikkonen, Grosjean, Alonso and maybe even Hamilton had the pace to win that race and might have done another day. A great shame for all that Alonso had the DRS problem he did – his recovery was typically dogged and showed what speed he had.

Secondly, overtaking happened, and in glorious quantities. It was riveting, and not least at McLaren as Jenson Button found out that Sergio Perez is actually quite fast (and possibly faster in the right conditions). There’s an old racing adage – ‘go fast. Don’t crash’ – of which the Woking team seemed only to have instructed the latter to Perez until yesterday, when Perez seemed to twig that driving rapidly was also required. The ensuing duel enthralled and delighted. Button was arguably overreacting with his contention that Perez had been aggressive, and it was interesting reading the team’s post-race press release which always tries to put a lovely chrome sheen on events. Even when events constitute red-blooded rivalry. More please.

Thirdly, I was struck when idly flicking onto Sky Sports F1 and alighting on a rerun of the Bahrain GP in 2010. Sky’s service is little short of outstanding, but they must admit culpability for false advertising as regards the title under which this race ran – ‘Classic Races’. Bahrain 2010 was by no means a classic race. In fact, it was dullery epitomised, and I know because I immediately began actually listening to Jonathan Legard’s commentary for subtler factual errors as opposed to the glaring howlers you cannot miss. Two things to be learnt from this: David Croft (and Ben Edwards on the Beeb too – there isn’t much between them) are excellent professionals who do their difficult job extremely well by comparison with recent incumbents.

More importantly, Pirelli and DRS and KERS have made the racing so good now, we’re spoilt. Even watching Nico Rosberg’s doomed but valiant attempts to hold back the sea of overtakers yesterday was worth last weekend’s strategy-fest. Rosberg’s Mercedes does seem to devour tyres when other machines merely consume them, but this unpredictability which we bemoaned last week also brings us considerable pleasure.

So next time I feel like criticising a race when it seems a bit sterile, I shall remember to spend some time watching F1 when the races really were insipid. Ignore us, Pirelli, and keep making those tyres out of paper. Ignore Jenson, McLaren, and let your drivers race. Ignore your fears of Vettel romping to a fourth straight title, people – this will be closer than you think. Hold onto your hats.

Notes between China and Bahrain 2013

Midweek between the back-to-back grands prix of China and Bahrain, 2013, and much to discuss. Here’s Hugh Podmore presents a run-down of the noteworthy news in F1 as it stands.

Alonso reigns in China
Fernando Alonso won imperiously in China, to deliver on the promise Ferrari have shown all early-season. The Spaniard was as cunning and as quicksilver as always and Lewis Hamilton is absolutely right to say that Alonso is looking the man to beat in 2013. Massa looked at the start but faded – it’s crucial for Ferrari’s designs on both titles that the Brazilian continues his renaissance.

Raikkonen to Red Bull?
All the pieces fit, don’t they? Another sterling drive from the Finn in China meant he could have won, were it not for his dreadful start. And so to Red Bull, because Webber’s had enough, Vergne isn’t ready, and Lotus are never going to be as consistent as Red Bull? Maybe, but it’s not a done deal yet. Many more performances like last week and Raikkonen will be going somewhere – that is, to the lead of the championship.

Continued promise from Hamilton and Mercedes
Hamilton did well to put the Merc on pole, but such a result rather flatters to deceive. It seems the car (and also possibly Lewis) fades quickly once the tyres do. Pace at the start of a stint is awesome but drops off dramatically and he cannot keep pace with Ferrari, Lotus or even Red Bull. Blame Pirelli, with their paper-thin india rubber (and curiously sterile strategic racing)? No. Hamilton and Brackley have much to be getting on with. It bodes well, though.

Not so Stirling
Arse of the week, Sir Stirling Moss. Anathema that sentence may be for a man rightly revered for his achievements behind the wheel, but his pronouncements concerning women in similar positions should clearly not be so flippantly aired. With F1 already seen in many quarters as male-dominated and anachronistic, the last thing it needs is its demi-god proving that.

The political situation in the Kingdom continues to be uncertain, and as the world has tragically seen over the past 24 hours, sporting events can be targeted fatally by homicidal lunatics. In all probability F1 should not be going to Bahrain. Let us just hope and pray it passes without injury to people who really have nothing to do with the trouble. And serious thought must go into this race’s place on the calendar.

That curiously sterile racing
Watching the Chinese GP, you could be occasionally be forgiven for thinking you were standing on a bridge watching the M25. On the M25, you don’t block the bloke behind you from overtaking, partly because you don’t know where he is going, but also because you’re not racing him. And that was the result of the myriad strategies and complexities in China. (Oh, and the DRS and the track). Pirelli – please make tyres unpredictable enough to make the racing interesting, but not so unpredictable that cars can’t race. Too much to ask?

Tip for Bahrain
To finish where we started, it’s got to be Alonso. The man is driven this year, and he’s so good. He is just so good.

Webber ‘not drinking enough Red Bull’

Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber has sensationally been accused of not drinking enough Red Bull, according to a German-language news agency.

Paloirfol Ausgezeichnet Bild this morning alleges that sources within the team have suggested that his lack of ability to keep pace with Sebastian Vettel may be due to his dislike of the energy drink.

“We have told Mark to down Red Bull before a race so he can up his game,” a team member called Hans Onzeviel told the agency. “But he refuses – and look what happens, he always loses out to Vettel!”

“No one wants to question Webber’s thirst. But it seems he is not thirsty enough!”

Sebastian Vettel’s level of consumption of the drink is not known, but it is thought he may be drinking Webber’s share as well. Onzeviel is reported to have seen Vettel drinking cans clearly marked “multi 21” – team code for priority Webber.

It is thought that Red Bull’s new flavour range is an attempt to help drivers stomach the drink. David Coulthard was well known to despise the taste, and once spat a mouthful in Helmut Marko’s shoes.