The Job That’s Never Finished
Ever wondered what goes on behind the glassy metallic exterior of McLaren’s Headquarters? Apart from our workforce and Team McLaren members, there are only a handful of people who have been invited inside.
The goings-on in the Design Office at McLaren Racing are of course, top secret. But we wanted to share with you a little glimpse into the daily life of those who work relentlessly on the job that’s never finished: improving the design of our cars.
A McLaren designer for 20 years, Paul Turvey tells us about life at the MTC…
“I get in early so I can park as close to the building as possible, it’s a long walk to my desk!” He describes the futuristic journey which includes spiral staircases, white underground corridors and cylinder glass lifts. “When we first moved into the building the size was a bit overwhelming but you soon get used to it.”
Paul was first employed by McLaren in 1994 on a short term contract and was offered a permanent position after one year.
“I’ve worked in a few different areas including chassis, suspension and engine systems but I currently work in the ‘Bodywork and Structures Group’. We are responsible for turning aerodynamic surfaces into actual race car parts.
“In the design office we use CAD software called CATIA which is widely used in the automotive and aerospace industries.”
When asked to describe how McLaren has changed for employees in the last 20 years, there was no hesitation in his answer. Instead of describing new software and technology, Paul’s immediate response was: “the size”.
“The main thing that has changed is the number of people working at McLaren. It has increased greatly. The growth of McLaren Automotive has been a factor in this but also in racing because the race cars have become much more complex.”
With such a large workforce you might wonder how a unified, team spirit is kept alive, but this isn’t an issue as Paul describes the atmosphere at the MTC after a race weekend.
“If we have done well, everyone is in an up-beat mood and there are lots of happy and relieved faces around the office. We always have a race briefing and discussion on the Monday or Tuesday morning which every member of staff is invited to.”
“Generally though, it is business as usual because there is always the next race in a week or two’s time and so plenty of work to be done. The development continues throughout the season so some parts change almost every race.”
“As the work I do now is reliant on the aerodynamics of the car, we constantly have to balance their needs with practical demands of manufacturing the actual components. In addition we have to liaise with the production departments if there are any manufacturing issues with the parts we have designed.”
It was said by Emerson Fittipaldi that the hardest job in the world is that of a Formula 1 mechanic. During a Grand Prix it is easy to see the immense pressure they are under with no room for error. Do the designers, working behind their computer screens, feel under a similar pressure to those present on the race track?
“Pressure for us in the Design Office is more constant but not as intense as it is for those on the race team, though we do have some very tight deadlines to meet. When I worked for the ‘Engine Systems Group’ I did sometimes worry it was my parts that had failed because in that area there are a lot of things that will stop the car if they go wrong!”
So what advice would a McLaren Design Engineer give to any young hopefuls with similar career ambitions?
“Your focus must be on Maths and Science, study these at A Level followed by a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a lot of hard work! When you work in such an inspiring place, and for such a brilliant team, the hard work is always worth it.”