No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy the best engines that storied engine builder Cosworth produces.

If you have enough money to buy a Formula 1 team, you can arrange a lease deal with the company, but you’ll never get to touch one of its engines.

Instead, your lease agreement with Cosworth includes a staff of company engineers and mechanics, who will install the engine in your chassis, start it before the race and handle all required maintenance and data acquisition. After the equivalent of a few weeks' worth of usage, the engine is pulled from the car and shipped back to Cosworth for tear-down.

Back in house, the engines are taken apart into some 4,000 individual components, with key parts checked closely for wear or damage. Post-inspection, the parts go to a furnace to begin life anew in another Cosworth engine; to maintain their competitive advantage, nothing leaves the factory.

Why the secrecy? Formula 1 is big business, with millions of dollars of sponsorship and prize money available for top teams. Other engine builders are satisfied with component performance gains of 20 percent, but Cosworth has a reputation for finding big gains, sometimes in excess of 100 percent, from their own component designs.

Advances in Formula 1 component design can yield dividends in other areas as well, and Cosworth is working on implementing F1 technology into production automobiles, aerospace and defense, and clean energy programs. While the company once relied on motorsports for its entire income, racing accounted for just 60 percent of its income in 2010, with the rest coming from the three key areas mentioned above.

[Financial Times (subscription required)]