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McLaren “throwing kitchen sink” at title battle
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McLaren “throwing kitchen sink” at title battle
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Oct 2010   |  2:41 pm GMT  |  31 comments

McLaren is leaving nothing on the table in its pursuit of this year’s championship, according to managing director Jonathan Neale.

The team, which had a strong run of form over the summer, has recently fallen behind Red Bull and Ferrari in what is already the closest title battle we’ve seen. Accidents for Lewis Hamilton in the last two races, costing a theoretical 24 points for a pair of fourth places, have not helped, but there is a feeling that McLaren needs to find something more technically in order to get the upper hand over its rivals.


“We’re throwing everything and the kitchen sink at it,” said Neale in a Vodafone phone in today. “We will be pushing very hard. If we can pull a modification forwards, even if we’ve only got limited components, I’d rather have the drivers to have that fraction of a second in lap time, than delay until we’ve got a comfortable set of spares. We are running on the very lean edge of what we’ve got.”

This weekend in Suzuka the team will try out a new package of updates during Friday practice including new aerodynamics and new ways of running the engine to make the most of the double diffuser,

“We’re taking a reasonable sized package to Japan, we’ve got front wing upgrades, we’ve got a new rear wing, there are some aerodynamic details and some of the engine modes. What we’ve got is a big test package for Friday. We’ll be in a better position to say what we’re going to run in anger (following Friday running). Certainly we’re taking everything that we took to Singapore, and some more, to Japan.”


The engine modes are interesting and Neale spoke to a few of us about this subject on race day in Singapore. The rise of the exhaust blown diffuser this season has led teams to work closely with engine builders to maximise the pressure of exhaust gases passing across the diffuser to gain extra downforce. This is particularly important when the driver lifts off the throttle for a corner.

To compensate, the ignition is retarded on the over-run, which maintains exhaust gas pressure even when the driver lifts off the throttle. This maintains the performance of the blown diffuser and keeps the downforce up when it’s most needed. It thus avoids the main problem of an exhaust blown diffuser whereby when a driver lifts off the throttle for a corner, the downforce goes missing when you most need it and the rear stability changes.

The challenge for engineers is that this process causes the temperatures to rise. But it seems that as the season has progressed, the clever engineers have found ways to do this for more than just a few laps, without sending temperatures through the roof.

Anyone who stood trackside in Singapore will tell you that the McLaren exhaust note sounded very strange on the over-run, this is another key battleground in the tech race which never sleeps.

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31 Comments
  1. PaulL says:

    What’s this about “significant” changes to the Degner double-right hander? That corner is a brilliant driver tester. If they have ruined it there shouldn’t be a race on Sunday..

    1. Kristian says:

      Where did you hear that? Last season it was a joy to see a corner complex challenge so many drivers. Sadly I knew it would probably mean it would be muted for this year, but I hoped not…

      1. PaulL says:

        Hi – espn-f1.com have the story, in the article about wet weather being expected.

  2. Red5 says:

    You have to admire McLaren for making up considerable ground throughout the year. Whilst they are not the only team to have made updates this season they were perhaps a little embarrassed in Bahrain just how far in front the Red Bull car was.

    I believe Jonathan when he says they will be pushing very hard. Can’t wait to see the kitchen sink running during Friday practice; taps at the front, right?

    1. Pete says:

      No, taps would be front, middle. Front right is where you find the washing up liquid.

  3. Harvey Yates says:

    Is this real news or an attempt to put pressure on Ferrari and Red Bull?

    It’s a great season: the three teams at the front and three at the rear.

    This will be a big race for Webber and Hamilton. With three(ish) races after it, there will be three drivers remaining in the hunt at the flag regardless of what the team managers of RB and McL say.

    We already know one – and have for some time – so now it will be the sprint to the wire.

    Classic races have been scarce this season but the tension is tremendous.

    1. James Allen says:

      I think it’s more of a frank admission that they are up against it.

  4. jmv says:

    The “delay of the ignition during the over-run” is truly for me an example of how “everything” is possible in F1.

    How every solution is tried out, it shows the inventiveness and creativeness of engineers who look at new circumstances, analyze their strengths and weaknesses and come up with follow up solutions!!

    I love the new Mclaren under Martin Withmarsh for being open about it too!

    Teams should understand how much potential for PR this type of opening up about technology approaches has! Fans love this.

    1. jmv says:

      and James thanks for being one of the journalist that covers this aspect more than others!

  5. Azlas says:

    As a Mclaren fan the last two races have been so bad it’s almost funny. And the sentence next to lewis’ car on your header image ‘…last chance saloon?’ is not helping James, LOL!

    Hoping for a turn around in fortune. At the very least getting both cars home in a reasonable position will be good too.

  6. Tyler says:

    This is good…. be even more satisfying win the fail to win it. Maclaren has improved in likeableness post Dennis, but the whole self important nose in the air vibe of the team leaves me flat… but those TV only driver jackets sure are pretty arent they?

  7. Gwion Daniel says:

    Could someone explain a little more clearly how retarding the ignition on the overrun maintains exhaust gas pressure? I don’t quite see how it would at the moment.

    1. Rob says:

      Retarding ignition timing means the ignition and expansion of fuel air mix takes place while exhaust valve is open/ing. Therefore increased exhaust gas pressure on overun.

    2. aussiefan says:

      As i understand it, if the ignition is retarded to closer to tdc (top dead centre) of the piston’s travel, then the fuel mix will still be burning at the end of the power stroke and the pressure remaining will be expelled in the exhaust gasses. Thus its less efficient, but this doesnt really matter on decel into a corner

      1. Paul Wible says:

        Wouldn’t that burn a lot more fuel?

    3. Martin says:

      To expand on the last two answers the torque of an engine is largely driven by the compression ratio, which in effect tells you what the expansion ratio is. By delaying combustion until after top dead centre less work is done on the piston, therefore there is a loss of torque and power so the car slows down as the drive expects.

      For performance the compression ratio is high, so there is there is the risk of fuel igniting just from the heat and pressure in the same way as diesel cycle ignites (ignoring diesels’ direct injection). In F1 direct injection is banned, so this can’t be used to get around this problem by adding fuel after TDC and then igniting the mixture. So the standard method is lean out the mixture so that the likelihood of compression ignition is reduced. The throttle valves would probably remain open to retain the airflow through the engine.

      I don’t know the chemistry, but running lean raises the combustion temperature. I believe it comes from the injection of fuel into the air reducing the temperature of the fuel-air mixture. The temperature is then an exponential or power function in the combustion process relative to pressure.

      Anyway, lean engines run hot, which isn’t great for reliability. If I remember my aerodynamics (Malcolm Strachan can dive in), it is the mass of air that is important, so the increased volume of this hot water vapour/CO2/etc isn’t important. What is important is the mass and velocity. Therefore having the throttles fully open is a good thing. The difference in the McLaren sound is probably due to a different decision on how to manage the heat, possibly not adding fuel on to a cylinder every revolution, so you get an uneven firing order V6.

    4. Luke Osborne says:

      I had wondered myself just how they were overcoming the problem of differing levels of exhaust gas, due to changes in throttle opening. Blown diffusers, as James can tell you, are certainly not new. I couldn’t tell you who used them first but they seemed to be phased out in the 90′s. The “done thing” was then to have them exit over the rear body work and under the rear wing. Just as on the current diffusers, they assisted the rear wing to produce downforce but it seems this method was nowhere near as sensitive to changes in exhaust gas volumes.

      The way McLaren have described their system, it is essentially an “Anti-Lag” system but without a turbo. Essentially, the air-fuel mixture is ignited very late in the cycle and where it would normally be used to force the piston down the bore (producing as much power and using as little fuel as possible while doing it), the mixture is ignited as it exits the cylinder and continues it’s way through the exhaust manifold. This explains the very high temps experienced and why it continues to produce exhaust gases even after the driver closes the throttle. The system will have a bypass to allow an intake of air, even after the driver has lifted off the throttle.

      For info on Anti-Lag systems, have a read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antilag_system

  8. jonrob says:

    There is nothing banning sinks in the tech regs. Still waiting to see smart surfaces appearing.

    1. RickeeBoy says:

      What like golf ball technology ??? which helps stop friction and reduce drag – Mmmmmm maybe back end of wings, or back end of tight hollow curves ! The wife has these on her thighs but I’m not sure if you could these areas ” Smart ” !

      1. Luke Osborne says:

        That’s pretty funny ;-)

      2. jonrob says:

        Does she move at 200 kph plus?

  9. tank says:

    Well if there are kitchen sinks…

    Why not have compressed air bottled in the car? Have the air blowing through the diffuser at crucial times… Exhaust over-run is compromising.

    Suppose it’d be a movable aero device which makes it illegal.

    1. DerangedStoat says:

      There is no way you could carry enough compressed air to do this for a race, so you would also need some sort of intake and pump for it.
      But I’d think that just the weight of the compressed air vessel would be more detrimental than the benefits of blowing the diffuser, let alone everything else that would be required.

      Where as blowing the diffuser using exhaust is really just using what’s already there (albeit at a possible reliability cost).

      1. jonrob says:

        Not allowed to store energy other than for the KERS

  10. Kenny Carwash says:

    Must admit, I absolutely love the noise the McLaren’s are making on the overrun, gives me goosebumps.

    I think quite apart from the tremendous five-way battle for the drivers’ championship, this season has seen an incredible level of techno-geekery. It’s amazing, considering that not long ago true innovation seemed to be all but dead in F1 and the teams were throwing away money to just make the wheel nuts a few milligrams lighter.

  11. RickeeBoy says:

    Excellent idea of ” Throwing the Kitchen sink at it ” …… I can visualise a nice stainless jobby being thrown at both the Ferrari’s and the Red Bull’s … perhaps that will stop them !!!

  12. Frenchie says:

    I stood/sat trackside in S’pore and can confirm the McLarens (especially Button’s car) were certainly making a very distinctive noise on the braking/decelerating.

    Initially, we thought Button’s engine was about to blow up and it takes a little while to get used to this strange sound you come to appreciate in the end.

    If you’re attending any 4 GPs this year, make sure you find a corner that requires hard braking to witness this exhaust note.

  13. sachindgr8 says:

    yup :) …. i finally attended f1 race in sing gp… it was awesome experience. nothing like its on tv … that too a night race… . and yes i noted the mclaren’s have diff engine note in corners when they brake, and merc have managed to make their car less noisy. but ferrari under those lights looked spectacular must say :)

  14. Andy C says:

    Having had such a big leap last year from a bad car, its fair to say McLaren have been outdeveloped at points this season (including the success of the blown diffuser).

    I hope they pull out something special in developments to push them on.

    I think it is Webbers title to lose now still. Despite Alonsos charge of late.

  15. nta says:

    Just goes to prove that we really are at the “sink” or swim point of the championship.

    Now we can understand McL’s strategy over the last couple of races..they have chosen sink. ha ha ha

  16. Daryl says:

    Im curious to Paul Wibles reply about using more fuel? I assume only a small amount of fuel is used to create the exhaust gas pressure required, keeping in mind this process is only needed while braking. I suppose the net gain outweighs the loss, when carrying a little extra fuel.

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