Season five of Formula 1: Drive to Survive could potentially include scenes of McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown smashing a Chromebook or Android tablet, Tom Brady-style, thanks to a new arrangement between the team and Google.
In 2020, McLaren exited its deal with OnePlus that produced several powerfully-specced black and orange Android phones, but there’s no indication of a similar branding exercise coming to the Pixel series anytime soon.
Instead, the new “multi-year” agreement between Google and McLaren is putting branding on the MCL36 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 following a case of COVID-19), their race suits and helmets, and on McLaren’s Number 58 McLaren MX Extreme E race car drivers and team.
You can spot the Android logo peeking along the engine cover in these pictures (thanks, Benjamin Cartwright) while the familiar colors of Google Chrome are clearly visible on the covers of the 18-inch wheel rims.
If you’re not familiar with these branded wheels in F1, it’s an opportunity arising as wheel covers are being reintroduced for the first time since 2009. As noted by Formula1.com, the covers are a mandatory addition to all cars this season, and while they have a simpler design than the ones seen on some cars in the mid-00s, they’re part of the changes instituted to lower turbulence created by each car to enable closer following and, ideally, more passing opportunities. Motorsport.com has more information on the history of wheel covers in F1, why they were banned prior to the 2010 season, and why they’re back now, including a not that the dished design is supposed to make them easier for mechanics to handle during pit stops.
They also say that McLaren will use “5G-enabled Android devices and Chrome browser across its operations during practice sessions, qualifying and races to support the drivers and team, with the goal of improving on-track performance.” In a statement, Brown said “By integrating platforms like Android and Chrome across our operations, our team will be better supported to focus on driving performance. We’re looking forward to an exciting partnership that spans across Formula 1 and Extreme E.”
As a viewer, the inclusion is less annoying than the race broadcast’s often-useless “Insights powered by AWS” sponsored by Amazon, but as Microsoft has found out with its 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.