Jonathan Neale, the chief operating officer at McLaren, has warned the result of a no-deal Brexit may put the ability of teams to stage Formula One meetings at risk.
Seven of the 10 teams are based in the UK and there will be nine races in Europe next year. According to Neale, McLaren are already working with partners within the sport in an attempt to ensure they are ready to deal with potential difficulties.
If parliament rejects the prime minister’s deal in December there is a possibility of the UK leaving Europe with no deal on 29 March next year, although other scenarios are still possible. By then, the F1 season will have started and the first European race is in Spain on 12 May. Mercedes, McLaren, Williams, Force India, Renault and Red Bull are all in the UK, while Haas have their headquarters in the USA but a base in Banbury.
“The key issues will be border efficiency for both parts and people and administrative costs,” said Neale. “McLaren F1 takes 40 tons and 100 people and we pop up at an event every two weeks around the globe in 20 countries and five continents, through a variety of customs borders, to put the show on the road. Currently there are well-trodden paths in how we manage customs and borders in order to move seamlessly.
“One of the things we are doing is working with F1, HMRC and our logistic providers like FedEx and DHL and try to anticipate [and] lobby, to make sure that we continue to work efficiently … that the administrative cost and the burden don’t make that a cumbersome process which would put risk into the ability to deliver the show.”
Neale said McLaren have identified the key areas they believed may be issues in light of a no-deal Brexit.
“The friction points are talent; supply chain and export of our product; administrative costs in coping with inefficiencies in borders and delays,” he said. “We will wait and see. We are not running around being over-dramatic but we are absolutely addressing it.”
Talent will be of particular concern to all teams given the international nature of F1. McLaren’s F1 team employs 800 people.
Neale revealed in the engineering group alone there were 23 nationalities. Ensuring this diversity was paramount. He said: “What we would like to avoid is getting into crazy, administratively costly and time-consuming visa requirements either for retention or for future recruitment. We want to be able to hire talent on the basis of right person for the job.”
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal, recently said he had concerns too for the 1,800 people employed across Mercedes motorsport in the UK, many of whom are EU citizens. Renault also face potential difficulties. They are based in Oxfordshire but their engines are manufactured in France.
“We are 10 weeks from starting our car build for 2019,” Neale said. “An F1 car has about 14,000 parts and the carry-over between the last race of this year and the first of next year will be less than 10%.
Many of those materials are sourced from a number of small-to-medium enterprises in the UK and across Europe. Some complex sub-assemblies will cross many borders before they arrive here.
“If every time a border is crossed there is a transaction, it introduces a huge amount of inertia and inefficiency to our supply chain. It will be the same for everybody but as a business it is something we would be keen to avoid.”
Meanwhile Michael Schumacher’s son Mick, 19, will compete in F2 next year. He will continue to race for the Prema team with whom he drove an exceptional season in this year’s Formula 3 European Championship, taking the title with eight wins and seven poles. F2 is the final proving ground in an attempt to gain a seat in F1.