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Formula One turbo charges UK economy

The 2014 Formula One season kicks off in Melbourne later in March. It’s a big season for the sport, with the introduction of a slew of rule changes. The usual 2.4 litre V8 is gone, replaced by a smaller 1.6 litre V6. There are also stricter rules on fuel consumption. Red Bull has dominated for the last few years, with Sebastian Vettel winning the last four driver’s championships but the new rules make it far more difficult to predict who will win.

The 2014 Formula One season kicks off in Melbourne later in March. It’s a big season for the sport, with the introduction of a slew of rule changes. The usual 2.4 litre V8 is gone, replaced by a smaller 1.6 litre V6. There are also stricter rules on fuel consumption. Red Bull has dominated for the last few years, with Sebastian Vettel winning the last four driver’s championships but the new rules make it far more difficult to predict who will win.

The teams now face greater strategic challenges and race planning on the day will be far more important. We are also about to find out which team has got the new engine right and which hasn’t, as Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull, explains: "This year is slightly more of an unknown because it is such a big regulation change, and of course certain engine suppliers will have got it right and some will have got it wrong. There will be a race against time among teams to get themselves in the best position they can." Horner reckons that the results of the first few races could be surprising and it could be well into the season before the dominant teams emerge.

What is far more certain is that the technology breakthroughs required will be achieved in Britain. The UK is home to eight out of the 11 teams that will compete for the title, including the heavyweights of Lotus, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull. As the championship unfolds on 19 Formula One tracks around the globe, the foundations of the victories will be laid in the business corridor around Oxfordshire that some call ‘motorsport valley’. As Red Bull’s Horner concedes: "The garage at the grand prix is our shop window, but it's what goes on behind the scenes that makes the difference."

Motorsport valley houses an astonishing 4,300 companies, which employ some 41,000 people. The annual turnover is £9 billion and about 90% of that production is exported. Britain’s dominant position in this industry is something of an accident. As motorsport became more popular in the 1950s and 1960s, the UK had lots of airstrips in the area left over from the war and lots of excess engineering capacity and expertise in rapidly developing new products. Much of this expertise was put into motorsport and ‘motorsport valley’ was born. In addition to the jobs and exports, the UK economy benefits from an injection of innovation that benefits the wider engineering industry.

 

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