AUGUST 15, 2007
How the Prodrive F1 team could work
There are reports that the Prodrive is close to making an announcement about its Formula 1 plans after months when there was little sign of activity. There is little doubt that Prodrive has a deal in place with McLaren if money can be found. This will be for cars and engines.
Producing sufficient engines is not going to be a problem given the engine freeze in F1 at the moment but building new chassis and keeping up a constant stream of parts in the course of a season is a lot more difficult. McLaren obviously does not want to be seen to be supplying a team with uncompetitive machinery, if only because it would not be good for the team's image. It has long been assumed that the only way around this problem was for McLaren to expand its own production facilities to cope, but there is another possibility that needs to be examined. In the modern era, production of F1 parts has been revolutionised with computerised manufacturing techniques. Once a design is completed it can be manufactured at multiple locations if the quality of the production is up to the main factory's standards.
Prodrive has its own composite manufacturing facilities, housed in a 1600 sq.m facility in Milton Keynes. This supplies advanced composites from Prodrive's racing teams and for customers in the automotive, aerospace and marine industries. The facility includes three autoclaves and machinery to produce pre-preg composite components. Prodrive already does work for a number of F1 teams (perhaps even McLaren) and so it is entirely possible that McLaren could build extra chassis for Prodrive and then allow development parts to built by Prodrive. It might even be possible for Prodrive to build the chassis as well, if McLaren criteria can be met.
Buying McLaren's design is rumoured to be costing Prodrive about $100m but while this is a huge investment, it should pay off quickly if the new team can produce good results.