McLaren today unveiled its new car the MP4-25 at a ceremony in Newbury at the headquarters of its main sponsor Vodafone.
“Our goal is clear, we aim to win”, said team principal Martin Whitmarsh. He went on to say that this car is the most highly developed car they have ever unveiled, “You never know of course if we have missed something – there are a number of things on this car that I have never seen on an F1 car and I find that heartening. But you never know – there might be some things that are like the double diffuser was for us last year that we have never seen before. So you can never be absolutely confident. We are working hard. This car represents the standard of car that will start to test. It doesn’t represent the standard of car that we will race.”
Like most teams McLaren has an aggressive development programme planned ahead of the first race in Bahrain. The car which starts the season will be quite different in appearance to this one.
There was noticeably more focus on the car and the drivers than last season’s launch, when the talk was of the championship recently won with Hamilton and Ron Dennis’ retirement. Today McLaren seemed very focussed on getting it right in the season ahead, focussed on the car and on getting the driver to work together to develop it into a consistent winner. There was a confidence about the team, which comes from knowing that they turned a poor car into a winner last season and they have faith in their engineering staff. The car was described by all the senior management as “very sophisticated” and a big step on from last year’s car.
The car is radical looking, it has a huge shark fin linking the air box to the rear wing. The nose is reminiscent of last season’s Red Bull, but less so than the Ferrari and the Williams. The 2010 cars look bigger and longer than last season, a result of having to accommodate a fuel tank which is twice as large.
The MP4/25 has been designed around the double diffuser, whereas the device was an add on to last year’s car after the protests against Brawn, Williams and Toyota’s devices failed. Engineering director Paddy Lowe said that McLaren’s interpretation of the diffuser was ‘extreme’ but suggested that some teams will have even more extreme interpretations,
“This is the first car in which we have had a clean sheet of paper to really exploit the interpretation [of diffusers] that was developed last year for a design of floors,” he said. “You will see we have produced a fairly extreme incarnation of that but we won’t be alone in that. We believe you will see some pretty extreme solutions on our competitors’ cars as well. We think the interpretation is very clear. In certain aspects we have sought guidance from the FIA and they have come out with very clear interpretation, understanding and guidance – and we think that has been made available to all the teams.” In other words, Lowe does not believe that the grey areas which clouded this issue at the start of last season are replicated this season.
Lewis Hamilton said that he had done a lot of work personally in developing this car. “I’m sure it’s going to handle completely different to last year’s car” said Hamilton.
“I hope so,” said Button.
Ron Dennis was at the launch, along with fellow shareholder Mansour Ojjeh. There was quite a bit of talk about Mercedes, Whitmarsh spoke of Mercedes as still a valued partner of the team, the team is still branded Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, it’s just that the manufacturer back up isn’t there any more and there was no sign of Mercedes hierarchy at the launch. Norbert Haug, the motor sport boss cried off at the last minute with a cold.
You can tell that McLaren are very motivated to go out there and beat Ross Brawn’s works Mercedes team this season, to prove to Mercedes’ board that they made a mistake in leaving them.