Today in Berlin the McLaren team launched their 2011 challenger and it certainly lived up to the pre-event hype with some very eye catching features. Historically when an F1 car looks this different from the rest it is either really good or the opposite.
Rumours in the German media that McLaren had suggested that the McLaren would have the same radical exhausts as the Renault but this proved not to be the case…yet. It seems that other teams have known about what Renault was working on and are likely to have been trying it themselves to assess the gains. Engineering director Tim Goss suggested that McLaren will have exhaust solutions of its own soon, “It won’t come as any surprise or shock that the exhaust solution on the car today is not what we intend to be testing or racing,” he said. “There will be some other solutions appearing on other cars, and on our cars as well.”
The main talking point on the car is the long wheelbase and the U shaped side pods. “The thinking behind that is to feed as much good-quality air as possible to the rear-lower main plane and the floor of the car. We want to get the rear-end working as well as possible following the loss of performance caused by the banning of the double-diffuser,” said technical director Paddy Lowe.
While their main rivals had their new cars ready for the Valencia test this week, McLaren opted to run the old car in Valencia and give themselves some extra development time. This was also due to their strategy of working on data gathering on the Pirelli tyres, in order to build the most sophisticated simulator model of the tyre possible. Jenson Button believes that the testing this is the right thing to do,
“We have just been making steps forward in many different areas. Lewis and myself have been giving a lot of feedback and it has been a good winter of simulator work, and we have a good simulator model of this tyre which is very lucky. If all that set-up effort works when we put it on the car in reality we will be in a very good position already in Jerez.”
McLaren are also reassured by the fact that the Mercedes KERS unit they will use this year is a well sorted and reliable unit, as it will be for Force India, who also ran the 2010 car this week in testing.
McLaren led both championships mid-way through last year but faded in the closing stages as the development didn’t keep up with the opposition. Tim Goss says that the team set itself very ambitious targets for this season in order to sustain a challenge throughout the season,
“We set ourselves a very ambitious aerodynamic target for 2011,” he said. “We always want to do more and we’re always very critical about performance, but we feel we’ve done a good job. We’ve identified some areas where we can add performance to the car – over the next weeks, the task will be to get them on to the car and reliable by the first race. That’s the big challenge.”