McLaren’s road car business has been steadily gaining traction since it launched, and had a record year in 2016. Its success has come while its Formula One program is in the midst of its worst slump ever, something that’s not coincidental.
McLaren Automotive recorded its fourth straight year of profitability as well as record high sales in 2016, according to a press release, a year which saw McLaren-Honda fail to reach the podium for the second consecutive season. The differences in McLaren Automotive and McLaren-Honda’s fortunes since the former’s 2011 launch, though dramatic, seemingly can be explained by one of the farcical theories Jeremy Clarkson proposed while he was on “Top Gear.”
Clarkson once said that you can tell how well Scuderia Ferrari is doing in F1 by the quality of the road cars the Italian outfit is producing. The former “Top Gear” presenter’s suggested when Ferrari makes great supercars, its F1 team struggles, and vice versa.
Although most of Clarkson’s “theories” usually should be taken with a grain of salt, he actually might have been onto something with this one, as we noticed a similar pattern in McLaren’s history.
McLaren Automotive has only existed as a standalone operation for six years, but McLaren’s experience developing its own road car extends back further than that. It produced the McLaren F1 from 1992 until 1998, and at the time, it was the fastest production car in the world. Its F1 team, however, suffered a bit of a downturn during that same period.
Coming off its fourth consecutive constructor championship in 1991, McLaren finished second in 1992, and wouldn’t win the title again until 1998. Though it was still competitive through the F1 supercar’s seven-year production run, it’s hard not to notice the team’s run of dominance ended as the road car project ramped up.
McLaren similarly finished P2 in the F1 constructor standings in 2011, the first year of its standalone automotive brand. It also has an average position in the championship of 9.5 in the six seasons since the supercar division’s launch.
McLaren-Honda currently sits last in the 2017 championship, with just two points through the first eight races, and is on track for it’s worst season ever. We should have seen that coming, though, considering McLaren Automotive is on pace to beat its 2016 sales numbers, which represented a 99 percent increase over its 2015 figures.
We’re not saying Clarkson is always — or even often — right, but in this instance, it’s hard to deny there’s a correlation between companies’ successes in the supercar market and their performance in F1.
Thumbnail photo via McLaren