The name McLaren has been always synonymous with organisation, style and success. Originally formed by Bruce McLaren it was purchased and taken over by ex-mechanic Ron Dennis and moulded over the coming years into one of the most successful teams of all time.
Dennis has something of a unique manner which requires ultimate perfection down to the tiniest details. This includes not just the car itself but the colour of the factory floor tiles and the appearance of his employees. The McLaren Technology Centre, where the team is based, is the most impressive and visually stunning factory in the pitlane and epitomises the McLaren approach to Formula 1.
Having enjoyed moderate success under the leadership of Bruce McLaren it was not until Ron Dennis took the reigns that the efficient and ultra-successful McLaren we know today emerged as a truly dominant force in Formula 1. The late 80’s and early 90’s partnership with engine supplier Honda saw one of the most dominant eras of Grand Prix racing with the team winning 15 out of 16 races in 1988. The driving partnership of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost created perhaps the most bitter driver feud that Formula 1 has ever seen.
McLaren’s insistence on perfection led it to be far ahead of the competition during that period but as the other teams have caught up McLaren has been left frustrated by an inability to recreate those earlier more dominant times. Always competitive, real success has however eluded the team with Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 crown its only championship win in the last 15 seasons. The rebirth of the McLaren-Honda partnership in 2015 has been painful for both sides and it finds itself further away than ever from the front of the grid.
Where is it ?
McLaren’s Formula 1 and its emerging road car business is located in the affluent town of Woking in Surrey. The team is slightly separated from the hub of the F1 industry but is still considered to be part of the UK’s motorsport valley.
Set within large private grounds the factory borders a man-made lake and includes a 700 seat restaurant, a gym, swimming pool and a boulevard which displays many of the trophies, successful McLaren Formula 1 cars from the past. If you ever get the chance then it is well worth a visit in person but in the meantime you can get a virtual tour of the MTC below.
Located just outside the M25 and on the edge of the capital city, McLaren has good transport links to London and abroad with Heathrow airport being just a short ride away. This sociable location suits many of the younger members of the team and many opt to live in London itself and commute out to Woking to work. Compared to the quiet life in rural Oxfordshire or sleepy Northamptonshire, working at McLaren can offer a much more exciting and diverse existence.
However, this prime location also means that property prices and the cost of living are high and traffic is very difficult. You may have the world at your feet but your salary will not go very far in London if you are only on a junior wage and not yet earning the big bucks.
What is it like to work there?
The notoriously demanding expectations of Ron Dennis as a team owner has always meant that McLaren has a very particular, near regimented atmosphere. The team is led by engineering excellence and decisions are made because of logic and good reason rather than from flair and assumption. McLaren is the polar opposite to its passionate but often unstable rival Ferrari. Fortunes have been up and down in recent seasons but McLaren has been one of the most competitive teams of the past 4 decades if not all time.
The McLaren Technology Centre is the epitome of the team’s approach to racing with its clean and geometrically perfect architecture. Incredibly modern and well equipped it is an impressive showpiece for sponsors and other visitors. Its a really impressive place to work in, something closer to how I imagine NASA would look rather than a racing team. You can’t help but be impressed and it’s clear to anyone who goes there just how seriously McLaren takes its motor racing.
Impressive it may be to the casual visitor, it is however also rather a sterile place. The sectioned and divided layout can impede the necessary day to day communication of the company. As you walk through the empty and featureless corridors you might be forgiven for thinking that nobody was working there at all. Individuality can be somewhat stifled and rules, conformance and appearance sometimes seem to take greater important than ideas and originality. It is not everyone’s cup of tea.
McLaren does however also have many, many long term and dedicated employees who are McLaren through and through. It is a loyal organisation which looks after its people well. The McLaren F1 team is also now just part of a much larger McLaren group which is growing in size and stature as it applies the McLaren ethos to external markets. The McLaren road car production facility is also now increasing in size and strength as it attempts to take on heavyweights Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini away from the racetrack.
McLaren is however somewhat burdened by its past and the current struggles with Honda are painful to watch. No matter what public face is put on the learning process for this new partnership, watching 2 world champions circling around near the back of the field must be causing enormous strains and stresses within the organisation. I hope that a solution is round the corner for the team but that is far from guaranteed. Jumping into a high stakes environment such as this may be a difficult place to start your Formula 1 career.
How do I get a job there?
Recruitment at McLaren is, as you might imagine, very well organised with a structured apprentice, undergraduate and graduate program. The website details all of these offers as well as any current vacancies for experienced people.
The recruitment program for McLaren cars has over the past few years been very big as the expansion of this side of the business has required an injection of personnel both in engineering and assembly. This has slowed slightly of late but there are still plenty of openings. At the time of writing there were 60 vacancies within the group, but only 20 within the F1 team.
You should however be wary that the production car business is very separate to the racing one and there is not necessarily a huge transfer of staff from road to racing. It may be better to look at McLaren GT, McLaren Applied Technologies or McLaren Electronic system as they have better links. In fact, I would go so far as to advise you to consider other racing companies as a way into McLaren F1 rather than via their production car group. There is some very good information about the activities of the group in general on mclaren.com
Nobody can deny McLaren’s pedigree and all of the facilities and DNA of a great team are still there. Results however have been elusive for some time and the team is at something of a crossroads as to whether it can rebuild itself and become a force in Formula 1 again or whether it faces an extended period of underachievement in much the same way that the once mighty Williams team has suffered. Joining McLaren at this point will not guarantee success and you may face some tough times and considerable pressure. I would imagine that Monday mornings are tough times in Woking at the moment.
F1 needs a successful McLaren as part of its brand and heritage so I do hope that it can recruit strongly and return to winning ways in the not too distant future.
Where do I find out more ?
The partner of a Mclaren F1 employee recently began blogging about life in the McLaren team. You can find “Life in the Pitlane” at :
A good insight into working at the MTC
The video below is a very old documentary (more than 20 years ago !) but a good introduction to the McLaren way if you are interested in the level of detail that the team applies to its racing activities.
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