The McLaren Technology Center in Woking, England (Patrick Gosling)

The Austin Grand Prix is honored to present this special guest blog by Sir Peter Westmacott, the British Ambassador to the United States. Sir Westmacott is a strong supporter of the technology industry in England and is committed to the expansion of high-technology into new sectors of the British Economy. Sir Westmacott will be hosting a special F1 TechRally symposium and Best of Britain reception along with the British Consulate-General and the UK Trade & Investment department in Austin next Friday, Nov 16, during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ weekend.

// British Technology Drives Austin's Grand Prix
Peter Westmacott - British Ambassador to the US

In Britain, the fortunes of our national soccer, rugby and cricket teams—not to mention our tennis stars—are the subject of near-constant angst. But there’s at least one sport where the UK is consistently a winner: Formula One motor racing.

In recognition of the importance of technology to the sport, Formula One consists of two annual competitions, one for drivers and one for the teams that build the cars. British drivers have always done well, from past champions like Graham and Damon Hill, Sir Jackie Stewart and Nigel Mansell to current stars such as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, themselves both former world champions. 

In Abu Dhabi over the weekend it was Kimi Raikonnen—a Finn driving for a British team, Lotus—who triumphed. But in Formula One, whoever crosses the finish line first, UK technology is the clear winner. Why? Because Britain is home to more Formula One constructors than any other country—with eight teams, it has twice as many as the rest of the world put together. Since the competition began in 1958, UK-based teams have won almost two thirds of all the constructors’ championships. Today, even the non-British teams source many of their key precision components from UK companies. UK firms conceive, design and manufacture everything from chassis, cockpits and engines to gearboxes, braking systems, transmissions, clutches, suspension, telemetry and more. All told, the UK’s 4,500 motor sport companies have an 80% market share worldwide, contribute over $9 billion per year to the national economy, and support more than 38,000 jobs.

This success is perhaps the most prominent outward expression of Britain’s strength in advanced automotive manufacturing, which is seeing record years for top of the range brands like Jaguar-Land Rover, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin and making Britain increasingly the country of choice for global engine manufacturing operations for firms like Ford and BMW. The sector is supported by—and, in turn, helps to support—a first-class research and development infrastructure, powered by expertise from our top-flight technical universities.

Technology forged in the white heat of racing competition has applications beyond motorsport. The British Formula One team Williams has invented an energy-conserving flywheel that it is now testing for use in London’s buses, offering the prospect of a 20% reduction in fuel consumption. The Birmingham Children’s Hospital is now monitoring young patients’ vital signs using software developed by another UK team, McLaren, for keeping tabs on its cars’ performance on the track.

In the next week, I and my colleagues from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) will be showcasing Britain’s technological and racing prowess with two events in Austin, Texas, just ahead of the inaugural Grand Prix there on November 18th.

Securing the Grand Prix, the first Formula One championship race to be held in the United States since 2007, is a major coup for Austin and for Texas. As well as the 120,000 fans who will attend the race in person, many of the 500 million people who watch Formula One on television each year will tune in from the comfort of living rooms and sports bars across 187 countries, putting the host city and state in pole position

The brilliant new Circuit of The Americas facility in Austin promises an exciting race. But I am equally excited about the compelling story it tells about Britain’s contribution to the advanced technology that makes possible Formula One racing, and a lot else besides.