About a year ago the FIA made a very curious contract decision, awarding the contract for production of the new common ECU in Formula One to a company jointly owned by Microsoft and the McLaren Group, McLaren Electronic Systems. At the time there was a lot of noises from the teams about McLaren Electronics winning the contract, but the FIA assured teams that there was no conflict of interest.
The common ECU is to be used by all teams in 2008, and recently testing was carried out by teams on the first production units, but after the testing at least Renault, Ferrari, Honda and BMW are not happy with the idea of using the unit for the next three years, after experiencing engine and throttle control problems.
Some teams have also expressed that they have reservations with working so closely, and being forced to exchange data with a team that has been a party to the current Formula One Spying scandal.
Flavio Briatore of Renault is openly unhappy about working with McLaren in 2008-2010 and is believed to be exploring legal options.
How am I to trust a company that is at the centre of a spying scandal?” he is quoted as saying.
BMW’s Mario Theissen added: “I have to say that some serious situations arose.”
McLaren and the FIA, however, dismiss the concerns. A spokesman for McLaren said: “MES acts independently of the (F1) team,” while the FIA source insisted that the awarding of the tender will be followed through with.
Looking at the McLaren Electronics Website the following describes it’s place, and the relationship between companies in the McLaren Group:McLaren Electronic Systems is an independent company of the McLaren Group of Companies.
It is a leading exponent of the group’s technical prowess and design philosophy. Its goal is to provide the automotive electronics customer with a complete range of products which are reliable, yet at the very limits of technology.
Our reputation is built on a record of success obtained through our constant pursuit of excellence. McLaren Electronic Systems aims to become the world’s premier supplier of advanced motorsport control and development support systems where small to medium quantities are required.
Although the company has its roots in motorsport, which is still the core and primary focus, we also make parts and systems for other high performance automotive applications. Some of our electronics and sensors also find their way into specialist medical, marine and aerospace applications.
McLaren Group: This UK group employs close to 1000 people. Major activites include McLaren Racing (the Formula 1 racing team), McLaren Cars (the high performance road car manufacturer) and McLaren Electronic Systems.
TAG Group SA: Founded in 1975, the TAG Group SA controls, through its subsidiaries and affiliates, a worldwide network of investments with particular emphasis on high technology, innovative processes and advanced design. Today the TAG Group main activies are aeronautics, automotive and real estate.
DaimlerChrysler: A 40% shareholder in the McLaren Group, DaimlerChysler is a supplier of engines for F1 and a partner (with McLaren Cars) in the development and production of the Mercedes-McLaren SLR super sports car which is produced in the new McLaren Group corporate headquarters, McLaren Technology Centre, near Woking in Surrey.
Looking at this it is clear that it is a separate company, but it still is controlled by the same people controlling the rest of the McLaren Companies, including the Formula One team. You just have to wonder how this company was awarded the contract to produce such an important item that all teams are forced to share, especially when you have to assume McLaren Electronics will have access to the data produced and stored by the ECU’s.
I am sure any team principal would love to be in the position of having access to the data from the rest of the cars on the grid. An amazing decision, and quite a coup for McLaren, despite the denials that McLaren Electronics is completely separate from the rest of the McLaren Group.