back to article Apple wants to buy Formula 1 car firm McLaren – report

Apple, the reassuringly expensive maker of iThings, is reportedly trying to convince Formula One racing car firm McLaren's execs to fall into line with a buyout. The Financial Times this afternoon claimed Apple is considering “a full takeover of McLaren or a strategie investment”, citing three people familiar with the …

  1. djstardust


    Can they not buy Vauxhall or Ford and get them making decent cars again?

    Mind you, even if they did no-one would be able to afford one anyway.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Damn

      Vauxhall made good cars? When?

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Damn

        "Vauxhall made good cars? When?"

        Well, it's a bit of an import from Oz, but the Monaro was excellent for the purpose intended; lots of power, simplicity, very well priced. Considering what they set out to achieve, it was definitely "good".

        Even the Astra got tonnes better, with Jeremy Clarkson having to honour a pledge to eat his own hair (a hair omelette, prepared and consumed on the spot on Top Gear) after Vauxhall followed up a car show concept with actual production.

        The Insignia also failed to elicit a constant stream of loathing from the loud mouthed one.

        So, good? That's subjective. But compared to where Vauxhall were in the 1990s to where their cars are now, they're definitely a contender in a lot of people's shopping lists. From a manufacturer's point of view, that makes them good.

        Traditionally the problem lay with Opel, not Vauxhall. Vauxhall knew that given a decent chassis and a range of pokey engines they could shift warmed up hatchbacks easily and profitably. Opel got stuck in a mode of boring German stodgey conservativeness, leaving Vauxhall to try and sell cars that had all the appeal and handling of a day old soggy Weetabix. But that was a while ago now.

        It's like in Germany there were two sorts of automotive engineer. The ones who believed in excitement, performance, power, etc. went to work for VW, Merc, Porsche, BMW, and Gumpert. The rest went to work for Opel...

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Damn / post by bazza

          "It's like in Germany there were two sorts of automotive engineer. The ones who believed in excitement, performance, power, etc. went to work for VW, Merc, Porsche, BMW, and Gumpert. The rest went to work for Opel..."

          Well spotted - there are two sorts of automotive engineers in Germany. Those that work for companies that have their HQs in Germany (like VW, BMW, Daimler-Benz, ...). And those that work for companies that have their HQs in the USA (GM, Ford). GM bought Opel in the late 1920ies. So whatever decision is made at Rüsselsheim can (and quite often will be) overruled by Detroit. There have been periods, on and off, when the Opel engineering and design staff had little time to do their actual jobs because they had to "assist" GM's teams.

          Former classmate of mine used to be an engineer for Delphi, did a lot of work for Ford Europe and GM Europe, retired last year. He has some interesting stories - let's just say they made me stop ranting about "public sector inefficiency".

        2. thegambles

          Re: Damn

          I've never been a fan Vauxhall or Opel with the exception of the Lotus Carlton of course. Some liked the hotter versions of the Corrado G60 and even the Calibra, but they didn't do it for me.

          Looking at the whole Opel / Vauxhall thing, I would say that the Manta which is the only Opel ever to hit our shores with the Opel brand was by far and aware a nicer proposition than the dire Cavalier or almost anything else that followed.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Damn

            "I've never been a fan Vauxhall or Opel with the exception of the Lotus Carlton of course. Some liked the hotter versions of the Corrado G60..."

            Corrado was VW and the G60 (supercharged) version was the hottest model until the advent of the VR6.

            "Looking at the whole Opel / Vauxhall thing, I would say that the Manta which is the only Opel ever to hit our shores..."

            The Opel Monza, Commodore and Ascona were all available in the UK.

          2. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Damn

            Opels were sold here for a while (V Cars), Monza was my favourite, later were the Senators with Vx branding. Manta is a coupe version of the Mk 1 Cavalier, it just remained in production longer.

            But I reserve my hatred for the branding abomination that is the term "Vauxhall Adam". The person who decided that should be strung up. I think some stickers would fix them.

            He was called Adam Opel.

      2. I Like Heckling

        Re: Damn

        "Vauxhall made good cars? When?"

        Early 80's if I recall, owned a couple of 83 Cavaliers in my younger driving days each one was at least 10yrs old and one was the first car I ever owned. Reliable, and the pokey little 1.6l engine was much better than the equiv Ford of the time. It was easy to work on too, with it only need a few minor repairs like a couple of rad hoses that perished after 10yrs use, rocker gasket that leaked... which was a cork one.

        I never serviced it, changed the oil just kept it topped up with petrol and changed the brake pads and tyres as needed.

        Fast forward to 99 and I got one of the last Cavalier 2lt GLS models of the production line and that thing was a dog... cracked manifolds, leaked oil, dodgy handling.

        These days I stick with Mazda, Honda or Lexus cars... all the ones I've had in the last 12yrs have been ultra reliable and so comfortable to drive and great fun to chuck around country lanes or on trips to the Nordschlieffe. :)

      3. thondwe

        Re: Damn

        VX220 Turbo (shh it's a lotus) - best car I've ever had period.

      4. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Damn

        Vauxhall made good cars? When?

        Quite a few in the 70s with the Droop Snoots, HS Chevette, 80s & 90s with the Senator and Carlton, later with Omega.

        Also have a soft spot for the older Cavaliers especially the 2.0 SRi.

        My favourite Astra was the old blobby shaped one - as a van. I didn't like the GTE - too much torque steer.

      5. nijam Silver badge

        Re: Damn

        Vauxhalls have been - across the range - generally better than the Ford equivalent for about 30 years.

        Ford puts marketing money into motorsport, so the easily-persuaded think their consumer vehicles must be better than products from companies that don't follow that strategy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Damn

      If Apple took over Ford or Vauxhall it would turn them into the new Audi, trendy clinically designed products that contain the same hardware as the competitors, but which they can charge more because hipster types love the image.

  2. MrTuK

    Oh no - Please doooon't !

    Next we would have Google cars going around an F1 circuit !!

    Apple please don't buy in F1, please, please don't.

    sheeesh !

    1. GregC

      Re: Oh no - Please doooon't !

      Next we would have Google cars going around an F1 circuit !!

      Couldn't be much worse than current F1. And I say that as someone who would organise my weekends around it up until a few years ago :(

  3. Anonymous Coward

    That'll be MacLaren soon then...

    Or maybe even iMacLaren. Ahem.

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

      I suspect that deal will run into teething problems.

      MacLaren make prams and pushchairs.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

        Oh I dunno, it's never too early to get babes and infants hooked on iThings. Why not build them into the pushchair?

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

          Given how the current McLaren is running, and how it keeps throwing bits of engine and such out (OK I know that's technically Renault rather than McLaren) it could arguably be convergent technology between the two...

          I'm sure there are some days when Alonso and Button must wonder if they've ended up with a pram by mistake.

          1. Vinyl-Junkie

            Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

            "I'm sure there are some days when Alonso and Button must wonder if they've ended up with a pram by mistake."

            There are certainly some days when Alonso has been throwing the toys out of his!

            1. nijam Silver badge

              Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

              > ... Alonso has been throwing the toys out ...

              That's been his core competency for quite a while.

          2. Goldmember

            Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

            "and how it keeps throwing bits of engine and such out (OK I know that's technically Renault rather than McLaren) "

            Nope, McLaren is the only team in F1 that runs with a Honda powertrain, not Renault.

          3. 1rvy

            Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

            Renault? Think you mean Honda, reliability isn't their main issue it is a size constraint placed on them by the chassis design. This has led to an under performing power unit.

            I really can't see a complete buy out being on the cards, an investment in MAT or even McLaren Automotive is possible, the F1 side of things is part of their history but not the direction Ron is steering the group. Automotive make some amazing cars and their previous partnerships such as the Mercedes-McLaren SLR were incredible engineering feat achieved by massive corporate investment.

  4. Starace

    Talk about the right company

    What seems to be up for discussion is McLaren Automotive which is a separate company from the other activities and these days mostly owned by former McLaren bondholders who swapped debt for equity.

    Bringing the other companies into it could be seriously misleading.

    Not sure what exactly is worth buying into as pretty much everything in terms of technology and manufacturing at Automotive was subcontracted. About the only things in house are marketing integration paint and assembly.

    1. GregC

      Re: Talk about the right company

      According to another report I saw on this story (but also quoting the FT), Apple are looking at acquiring the McLaren Technology Group, which is the whole shebang - F1 operation, road car division and so on. Apparently estimated to be worth £1 - 1.5bn.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Talk about the right company

      McLaren seems to play in a higher range than where Apple would consider. Maybe the lowest end that I could find, 570S, which sells for $184K might be the top top range of where Apple goes but I'd bet on them going to the $50K-$100K range - expensive enough that there's some decent margin to be had, and they don't need to make compromises, but still affordable or at least aspirational for a good chunk of their current customer base. They go up from there all the way to multi million dollar supercars, it is hard to see how anything about that overlaps with designing and selling electric cars that mere mortals can afford.

      As for the F1 team, not really sure what good it does them, but maybe it holds some IP that Apple wants.

      1. ashdav

        Re: Talk about the right company


        Would you like to try that again?

        I've no idea what you're trying to say.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Talk about the right company

      Never mind which bit of the company they're talking about, Apple would be missing the whole point as to why the name is McLaren.

      McLaren is named after Bruce Mclaren, and the current owners and top bods kept the name and continue to be involved in the group / team largely as an on-going homage to Bruce and their fondness for their friendship with him back in the day, before he was killed in a fatal crash in Goodwood.

      The loss of a friend can set fixed limits on what people will contemplate. It's probable that Ron Dennis et al would see selling control of McLaren to someone like Apple as selling Bruce McLaren's soul to the devil with the highest bid. Now old Ron is certainly capable of ruthlessness, but I doubt he or the others would stoop to that.

      Having said all that, McLaren have an engineering consultancy business, they've done some clever things, and it might be that that's what Apple are after. It's not associated particularly with the cars or the race team.

  5. Michael


    If Microsoft join in we could see some spectacular crashes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft

      Microsoft are already in there in the form of Microsoft Dynamics, sponsoring Lotus/Renault, see if you can spot their car:

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft

      Won't this be an issue for Apple, don't most or all major racing team pit crews use Windows based tuning and diagnostic software? I seem to recall a story here on El Reg about F1? computers...

      1. Chris King

        Re: Microsoft

        They also (along with McLaren and Freescale) helped to developed the standard Engine Control Unit (ECU) used by all F1 teams. Not sure if that's still the case as Freescale changed hands more recently.

  6. LDS Silver badge

    Maybe it was just a dumb assistant...

    Cook: "assistant, go and buy me a McLaren!"

    < a few days passes...>

    Assistant: "Mr Cook, I just bought McLaren for just 2 billions! It was easy with all that cash sitting in Ireland!"

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Maybe it was just a dumb assistant...

      There are those who say that this is how Jeff Bezos ended up with owning the Washington Post.

    2. terry doyle

      Re: Maybe it was just a dumb assistant...

      Actually, the cash is NOT sitting in Ireland... It just comes through here on it's way to the Bahamas or other offshore deposits.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. wolfetone Silver badge

    There is absolutely no chance that Ron Dennis, who started in the team as a tea boy, would let this happen. And Apple are going to struggle with this reality, of a company who actually says "NO" to them.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Laurent Cargill

      Re: Tea boy?

      Ron got involved when his Project 4 Racing team merged with McLaren, hence the MP4 suffix on all the chassis names

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I think you will find Ron was a spanner for Rindt at Cooper, and he moved to Brabham with Jochan.

      If you really want to understand the people in F1, look at whose careers were formed by Brabham Racing. Brabham had Ron T, probably the greatest race car designer to grace racing - lots of men learned from Ron and lots of drivers were shaped by Jack.

      I was on a tour of the MTC a couple of weeks ago (oops, I must be a current or potential client or "in the know" in some way), a very cool facility.

  9. Bibbit

    Only problem....

    Is when poor old Mr Button's successor starts getting U2 over the driver radio.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Only problem....

      ...and is able to blame losing races on "was holding the steering wheel wrong".

      1. Red Bren

        Re: Only problem....

        The steering wheel will be replaced with a proprietary navigation interface. But you can buy an adaptor that costs almost as much as the car so you can still use your industry standard steering wheel.

    2. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: Only problem....


      "you still haven't found the gear you're looking for..."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only problem....

      Don't worry, the 2017 F1 car won't come with a drivers earpiece socket, instead relying on some trendy wireless earpiece that will take the first half of the race to get paired, then proceed to run out of battery.

  10. schafdog

    Ivy needs a new hobby since the Edition Watches have been stopped. Designing the most beautiful super sports car Apple have ever done.

    1. Darryl

      really, really, really shiny black sports car with no speakers, just bluetooth

      1. Simon Harris

        No doubt with black buttons on a black background labelled in black.

        1. Ed 13 Silver badge

          .... and lights that light up, black, to let you know that you've done it?

          Thank you DA

          1. thondwe

            And the Electric will have an custom socket which only works at apple approved charging points or will require an adaptor which fills the boot...

  11. Haku

    I'd hate to be the first driver to crash an Apple F1 car.

    Being blamed for it because you were 'holding the steering wheel wrong' would royally suck.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: I'd hate to be the first driver to crash an Apple F1 car.

      And if you were in a Tesla you would not be holding the steering wheel at all.

      Better to hold it wrong than not to hold it at all.

  12. Dr. G. Freeman

    If this does happen, how a they going to get the car off the ground to change the tyres ?

    They've not got a jack ?

    1. PhilBuk

      The tyres are not replaceable.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You'll have to take the car to a McLaren Genius™ to have the tires (sorry, tyres) replaced. If you have them replaced by a non-factory authorised 3rd party, the steering wheel will cease to function 'for your security'

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perfect for Apple

    Round corners.

    1. Alister

      Re: Perfect for Apple

      Perfect for Apple - round corners, not so good on the straights...

  14. m0rt

    Apple have lost their way...

    They don't know what to do.

    Any remarks about Maclaren being useful for the self driving project are laughable. Just how, exactly? There is a lot of tech in F1 that is cutting edge, but that tech comes from elsewhere first, then gets applied to F1.

    If there is anything to this rumour, then the only reason Apple want this is a marketing exercise to up their credentials if they do enter the self driving arena, and they do need to do something else because as a boutique make of iShiny they are not really 'disrupting' (pauses to vomit) any markets right now.

    I mean, if they produced Sierra that didn't have all the shit attached, like photo and iTunes by default, and produced a machine that would rival the original Thinkpads modularity, then they would be see by many to actually be serious about technology. As it stands, they are a bloody joke.

    Screw the lot of them. Now where is my psion....

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Apple have lost their way...

      Actually, F1 has been the development ground for a lot of tech that has then flowed out to other applications. 3D printing originated in and was pioneered by F1, by Williams as far as I can recall. Williams also developed the only active suspension system that worked well, and have a cunning approach to kinetic energy recovery / reuse based on a toroidally geared flylwheel. Renault were heavily involved in taking the idea of a turbo charger (found on ships and piston engined aircraft) and altering it to be usable in automotive applications. Prior to them, a turbo was something that worked well at one engine RPM, but was pretty useless anywhere else. The current F1 engines, especially the Merc, have extremely sophisticated ways of saving energy, and if Merc in particular ever applied their long shaft turbo + electric super charger + hybrid + regen braking + intercooler-less engine architecture to road cars they'd be getting tremendous MPG and performance. The only reason they don't is because they currently don't have to to meet emissions regs, and it's expensive. McLaren, long time innovator in the use of carbon fibre in cars (race and road), have got so good at it that it's now a 4 man-hour job to make a CF chassis for one of their cars these days. It used to be 4000 hours. And they can do hollow CF in a single go, instead of having to glue it together afterwards like everyone else has to. Everyone wants to be able to do that in automotive, aerospace, and other applications where CF is a big deal. Gordon Murray, he of F1 / SLR fame, has developed a method of car manufacture that substantially reduces the cost of developing a new car model (design, passing crash test, production line tooling) without drastically increasing the manufacturing unit cost itself. Basically it involves tubular steel chassis but done properly, cleverly and quickly (not like TVR then). McLaren's Applied Technology division has worked with Glaxo, who now (for the same cost and plant) produce 6.7million extra tubes of toothpaste per year, and an extra £100million in value inside a single year.

      F1 has long been a hotbed of engineering daring do, and there's a large number of very talented people involved in it (approx 100,000 in the UK). If you want a ready made team of ruthless, fast, clever engineers full of ideas that no one else has though of, a mature F1 team isn't a bad place to look.

      1. ISP

        Re: Apple have lost their way...

        Actually TVR are (supposedly) on the way back using Murray's carbon tech and Cosworth power.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple have lost their way...

        Sorry, turbochargers, direct injection, water injection, honeycombs, ceramics, composed materials and much more were used in aviation far earlier than F1. It was a great loss for F1 engineers when combat airplanes went to jet engines because they no longer had a source of high performance technology.

        Anyway, superchargers were in use far earlier (even before WWII) than the years Renault adopted it (in the '80s lighter turbines could be made, though, compared to those of the '30s...). Much depended on the rules - how much large can be a supercharged engine compared to an aspirated ones, and thereby how much power can be delivered.

        Yes, there are some specific technologies that had to be developed, but F1 rules has been towards creating fast dinosaurs in the past years. Under many aspects, the rules of LMP1 brought much more interesting developments than F1 - and much more towards what future cars could be, instead of the high octane petrol only in F1 - again, much alike the 100LL used in aviation engines...

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Apple have lost their way...

          A turbocharger for a ship or aircraft engine is designed to work at a single RPM, and is therefore useless on the road. It took Renault F1 to develop them into something that drove nicely without appalling lag and also worked across the rev range, no mean feat.

          Slap a P38's turbo on a car and it just won't work well at all, except at a single speed. And indeed a car turbo on an aviation engine is also suboptimal (though that doesn't necessarily stop anyone doing that).

          Also you're getting confused between a turbo charger and a super charger (something that Renault hasn't used anytime in the last 36 years). And to make you even more confused, the unit in a modern F1 engine is both combined.

          1. ISP

            Re: Apple have lost their way...

            "It took Renault F1 to develop them into something that drove nicely without appalling lag and also worked across the rev range, no mean feat."

            Ahem, SAAB 99 Turbo...

  15. Timpatco

    Stalled fruit?

    Gee, the world's greatest inventors (of cases) can't hack it with all their engineering "talent" ? DIDDUMS

  16. Spicer

    buggies maybe?

    Are we sure they're not aiming for MacLaren the buggies manufacturer?

  17. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Tax Dodge?

    This smacks of a tax dodge for those untaxed billions they have floating around. Spend the money on racing, tax write off. The old saying about "to be a millionaire in racing, first start as a billionaire" would seem to apply.

  18. 2+2=5 Silver badge


    > Its publicly-advertised software products include: the Advanced Telemetry Linked Acquisition System (ATLAS); SQL Race, an API for MS SQL Server

    SQL Race? Nothing new there: I've been putting race conditions into my code for years!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Technologies

      "I've been putting race conditions into my code for years!"

      And those equal opportunities people haven't been round yet?

  19. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Now that I give this some thought...

    A 1000+ hp, sports car that's self-driving and comes with iTunes for additional features and music. What could possibly go wrong?

  20. JeffyPoooh

    It's for Apple's self-driving car project...

    Once self-driving cars are perfected, by about mid-February according to some estimates, then driving will of course become perfectly safe. So, it logically follows that there will no longer be any need for speed limits. We can all get to work at 450 kmh through city streets. Thus Apple needs an F1 team.

    Apple is, of course, planning to 3D Print their new line of super fast self-driving cars. 3D Printed ready to roll. Including all fluids, and warmed up. They'll just self-drive themselves right off the printer.

    They'll be electric of course. 1200 km range. Recharged in ten minutes with a Lightning cable.


  21. Uberseehandel

    Mistaken Identity?

    When McLaren developed the iconic F1 road car, it was the creation of designer Gordon Murray. His business, Gordon Murray Design has developed new techniques for building cars in the Twenty First Century, perhaps presciently called - iStream® - a move here would make a lot of sense, we know Apple likes British designers.

    So perhaps the financial press has been barking up the wrong tree?

  22. CrimsonAvenger

    Apple can get bent if they think they're buying McLaren. I'll start a bloody petition or something.

  23. Jo_seph_B

    If I worked at McLaren I'd be worried

    Especially If I was the jack man......


  24. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Hmm... tinkering with something interesting for years, but not getting anywhere near a product that can be sold in any way. Taking over a small(er) company that actually knows how it's done. Assimilate their know-how. Re-package the bought product and sell it as own product... Pretty much the story of MS Access...

  25. MonkeyCee

    Thank you EC

    I'm glad that the EC is kicking Apple about it's tax arrangements. At least if they spend some of their sack of cash on doing something new it'll be better for all of us than it sitting offshore.

    McLaren is an excellent high tech engineering company. Even without doing anything about cars, they should be able to improve Apple's manufacturing operations.

    My tin-foil hat thoughts was that faced with the US and EU getting together and probably forcing Apple's hand on paying tax, Apple has a plan that involves setting up some suitably state-funded (and loved) industry and use that as a negotiating stick for a better tax deal. Buy a car company, start the negotiations about where you'll site your factory, in exchange for the usual backhanders.

    Guess we're lucky Apple's not buying into the F35 project ;)

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