Season five of Formula 1: Drive to Survive might feature footage of McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown crushing a Chromebook or Android tablet in Tom Brady-style, owing to a new agreement between the company and Google.
McLaren exited its agreement with OnePlus in 2020, which created multiple powerfully-specced black and orange Android phones, but there’s no sign of a similar branding exercise coming to the Pixel series anytime soon.
Instead, the new « multi-year » agreement between Google and McLaren includes branding on the MCL36 race cars driven by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo (who is now available to drive in this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain GP after multiple negative tests due to a case of COVID-19), their race suits and helmets, and McLaren’s Number 58 McLaren MX Extreme E race car drivers and team.
In these photos, you can see the Android logo peeking out from under the engine cover (thanks, Benjamin Cartwright), as well as the familiar colors of Google Chrome on the covers of the 18-inch wheel rims.
If you’re not familiar with these branded F1 wheels, here is your chance because wheel coverings are being reintroduced for the first time since 2009. The covers, as noted by Formula1.com, are a mandatory addition to all cars this season, and while they have a simpler design than those seen on some cars in the mid-2000s, they are part of the changes instituted to reduce turbulence created by each car, allowing for closer following and, ideally, more passing opportunities. Motorsport.com provides more background on the history of F1 wheel covers, why they were banned prior to the 2010 season, and why they’re back now, including the fact that the dished design is designed to make them simpler to manage during pit stops.
McLaren will also deploy « 5G-enabled Android smartphones and the Chrome browser across its operations during practice sessions, qualifying, and races to support the drivers and team, with the goal of increasing on-track performance, » according to the press release. « By integrating platforms like Android and Chrome across our operations, our team will be better supported to focus on driving performance, » Brown said in a statement. We’re looking forward to an interesting collaboration spanning Formula 1 and Extreme E. »
As a viewer, the inclusion is less obnoxious than the race broadcast’s often-useless « Insights powered by AWS » sponsored by Amazon, but as Microsoft discovered with the Surface and the NFL, the real branding opportunity comes when someone decides to spike your equipment.
Update March 17th, 1:47AM ET: Added additional pictures of the MCL36 and information about wheel covers for the 2022 F1 cars.