McLaren launch evolutionary new F1 challenger
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Feb 2012   |  2:11 pm GMT  |  162 comments

McLaren has finished the last two constructors’ world championships in second place, a point made today by team principal Martin Whitmarsh. His message was clear: 2012 has to be the year when they get one over on main rivals Red Bull and take back at least one of the world titles.

Today, McLaren launched their 2012 car at their headquarters in Woking with Lewis Hamilton praising its refinement and describing it as “the finest-looking car we have had for some time.”

The version unveiled today is not in the specification it will be seen in come the first race, it’s not even as it will appear in the February tests. It’s a good looking car, the designers have managed to avoid making it ugly at the front due to the new regulations on nose heights.

If this is the car that is to provide the stiffest challenge to Red Bull, then it’s quite a low key birth. McLaren trust in their ability to develop and they want to avoid the errors of last winter where the initial iteration of the car simply didn’t work.

That episode proved beyond doubt that you cannot draw any conclusions about competitiveness until the tests and even then it’s only the first two races that show you the pecking order.

The MP4-27 represents an evolution of the 2011 machine but the team have abandoned their U-shaped sidepods – in the interests of maximising the new exhaust positioning rules – and returned to a more conventional design.

It features a more tightly packaged rear end but there is no sign of the stepped-nose design, which appeared on the Caterham, as the whole front end of the chassis is lower.

There’s also a revised cooling system which re-directs the gearbox oil-cooler while the rear view mirrors are also new. “Felipe Massa will be happy with that,” joked Lewis Hamilton in reference to the duo’s numerous clashes with each other last year.

“The back of the car is much neater, it’s much tighter,” added Hamiton. “The focus was on getting it as tight as possible for aerodynamics.

“The biggest changes for 2012 are the modifications to the exhaust regulations – that will reduce the downforce and grip that we had last year, but it just puts the emphasis on the designers to try and claw some of that back in other areas.

“I get the feeling the MP4-27 is going to feel very new and exciting when we get to drive it for the first time.”

Button added: “This is a beautiful car. Many you see will not be. There are some good rule changes giving the engineers and aerodynamicists something to really think about.

“These guys have been flat out since we finished racing in 2011 on improving the car as much as they could in the simulator and I’m looking forward to getting out in it at Jerez.

“With the regulations remaining relatively stable, we’ve really been able to focus on the detail with this year’s car.

“I still think we had a very fast package last year – it was very strong in certain areas – and our race pace was almost always fantastic, but we’re hoping for a further step forwards in 2012.”

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: “It looks beautiful at the moment but cars only really look beautiful when they win races. The goal is to win World Championships – that’s the goal every year.

“We are there or thereabouts. We don’t like losing. The last two years have had their frustrations. We are proud of the [six] victories we achieved but ultimately we want to win and win World Championships.”

McLaren, who have not won the constructors’ championship since 1998, have finished second behind Red Bull in the last two seasons and Button expects them to be the team’s main challengers once more.

“The Red Bulls will be strong,” added Button. “They are not suddenly going to build a bad car. They’re still going to be good competitors in 2012 but the important thing is we stay focused on what we’re doing. “

Hamilton added that he was confident the team had learnt from their mistakes last season which saw them struggle with reliability during the pre-season tests. And thus put them on the back foot at the start of the season.

“It’s always important to start off with a good foundation and I think we have that,” said Hamilton.

“The guys have learnt a lot form last year. The car is an evolution of the car we had last year which, if you remember, we were winning with towards the end of the year so that’s comforting.

“If we can start on a better foot this year, I think we’ll start this year with a lot more running which allows you to build upon there.

“We are the strongest team in terms of development so that should give us a strong position to start the season.”

Whitmarsh echoed those thoughts: “We had by anyone standards an abysmal winter testing session last year. We didn’t have reliability or pace.

“It was a tribute to a fantastic team that we were able to respond to that and arrive in Australia in reasonable shape.

“It was a relatively stressful process and I’d be much happier not to be fighting those kind of issues.”

Button will get the first taste of the new car when testing gets underway in Jerez next Tuesday.

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Speaking of peculiar looking cars, does anyone remember the 1996 ferrari? It the had hexagonal Fighter Jet style sidepods. Didnt do them much good though. Only a couple of wins I suppose.

Also glad to see that we dont see those wierd looking sharkfin engine covers (See the 2010 mclaren – ugly), though i dont understand why HRT had one last year where the teams didnt have it.


I hope it goes as well as it looks.

McLaren need to deliver this year – no excuses. No WDC/WCC since 1998 is shocking for a team of their heritage.


The McLaren MP4-27 is simply stunning…

I hope it’s as fast as it looks…


I’m late to the party, but let me say, it’s a beautiful car!

And it heavily reminds me MP4-23… fingers crossed, it will bring the same (if not better) results!


I’m no McLaren fan but that nose is far nicer than anything else at the moment.


Mclaren is the only car so far that looks like it hasn’t been built out of Lego bricks. The Ferrari is one ugly looking car along with all the others. Can’t see how a stepped nose is aerodynamic.


Anyone remember when Mclaren always used to do their preseason testing with an orange car. Always loved that!! Google it and you’ll see what I mean!! That car is going to take some beating in the looks department. Lean and keen!!! F1 is not a beauty contest tho!!!


Car looks good to me. I’m delighted it doesnt have the alain prost nose seen on the caterham.

I’m reliably informed that the gismos are missing on the release car as they’re close to the wind on rules. A fake panel here, a last years front wing there. You get the picture

I suspect we’ll see the full package only in test 3.

I love some of the stay at home expert aero tips for McLaren above (wonder if they read this discussion ;0)

Lets hope its a belter out of the box. Then we’ll see what Milton Keynes are like on the back foot.


I think McLaren have pulled something out of the bag here . Stunning looking car, fresh approach and two supremely talented drivers. I really do hope McLaren, Ferrari and possibly Mercedes AMG can challenge the Red Bulls this year. With this car I think maybe this might be a year for McLaren! But will have to wait and see.


Good looking car doesn’t equal world championship!!!


Yes that’s very true, and when one looks at the gaping “mouth” below the nose of the Ferrari makes me wonder if McLaren have found another way.


No real surprises here. Lets hope its fast. Im sure it’ll be reliable.

Shame they used last years front and rear wings though.

They appear to have lost some sponsors, Johnnie Walker, Aigo and is Hilton gone too?


As far as I know all three are still sponsors of McLaren


Seems like Mclaren are starting off safe this year building a car that is an evolution of last year’s car. A car that was only 2 or 3 tenths off where it needed to be but Mclaren could never find those tenths. Clearly they are wise to the fact that in recent years their slow start has cost them dearly in both title hunts. Meanwhile Ferrari after years of playing it safe are talking about going for gold and being more aggressive. Going to be great see which style works.


James, any insight into how this nose is legal? Or better said, why the Caterham has such an extreme interpretation of the rules?

The two cars look to be built to different regulations. If this nose is legal, why such an extreme and clearly less aerodynamically clean nose for the Caterham? What am I missing with my untrained eye?


The whole nose section is lower than last season’s car, so they don’t need the platypus dip to conform with the 55cm height limit at the front of the nose.


Let’s see if it can get McLaren their first constructors title in 14 years.


Don’t worry I am sure there will be no threat of that happening, even if they score more points there will be some reason to exclude them from the standings.


Aye, let’s hope Macca perform a clean clean without controversy.


Wouldn’t have anything against Mclaren WCC and Alonso’s WDC… Actually I would love to see it, because it would mean a great battle.


As long as there’s no hump like Caterham it does not look weird. Overall I like the look though.


James – given your insight into the sport over the years, do you think anything has changed (eg designers, management, etc) that will give MacLaren the edge this year? Is it a case of them needing to take a chance in order to be able to beat RBR? Or will they perenially play a safe game and try to win the championship off the strength of their drivers rather than through the car?


You have to have the car. Especially when there’s a driver of Vettel’s calibre in a front running car. You saw the result of that last season.

Changes wise I see McLaren lost a few key aero people over the winter.

But they wanted to emphasise “strength in depth” today.

I think they will probably race a bit smarter this season, but the car has to have the pace, that’s the key


Stunning 🙂


“We are the strongest team in terms of development…”

This is a good PR-statement maybe, but rather naive also… not having won the WCC since 1998! And somehow unsportmanlike also for it implicitly does deny RBR’s fair achievements for the last two seasons as a whole, doesn’t it?


“We are the strongest team in terms of development…”

I have always seen it as a moronic statement.

Simply put they start with a bad car and catch up mid-season negating the fact that the others built a good car from the start.


Good point, and probably why they haven’t won the constructors in 14 years.


Good point. Mclaren had been 1.3 seconds off the pace last winter, slapped a new exhaust on for Australia and competed.

Silverstone the blown exhausts were banned, and Mclaren were suddenly 1.3 seconds behind the Red Bulls.

In 2010, Ferrari developed their initial car better than Mclaren did, to the point that by seasons end, Ferrari were a pit-stop away from the drivers championship.

James, Is the resources agreement still in place or as Ferrari and Red Bull have withdrawn their membership, can they spend what they want?

Has there been any progress on this front, or have any other teams withdrawn their entry too?


The RRA is still in place yes. What’s got lost is the FOTA concept as far as the renegades are concerned (there are now 5 teams outside FOTA)


The car looks good, but the big question will be IS IT THE ONE TO BEAT?

Its obvious McLaren is sandbagging (e.g the postion of the exhausts look like they are still blowing the diffuser….hmmm)

I’ll wait until testing starts, but I think the Red Bull had the most to loose from the new regs, I doubt Seb will be able to brake 30m later than his rivals this season.

Tormillo Amarillo


With this look and inspiration, I want to buy a McLaren subcompact car right now!

Is it legal that nose?

After all, Sauber lost points for an illegal tale at the beginning last year.


Proving once again that modern F1 cars are simply a big-ass wing with some other bits bolted on.


Love McLaren for the development of the details. One can stare at things on a McLaren for hours that would be boring on another car. Perhaps it’s almost a fetish in their development that they need to make every inch shapely and innovative, but I for one appreciate it. I’ll be surprised if the Ferrari is this developed. Red Bull might be, but just less artistic and expensive looking.


Yes, Ferrari, winners of 15 driver championships and 16 constructor championships.

Ferrari, a team that since Mclaren last won the Constructor Championship in 1998, has won 8 Constructor titles, actually matching Mclarens complete total of 8 Constructor Championships.

I may well be biased in my support of Ferrari, but I wouldn’t dream of demeaning any other squad for their engineering and design ability. Not when they have proved successful.

IMO, I don’t believe this is the Mclaren that will test and race this year, but I’m struggling to see anything that looks innovative on it.

I have to agree with Gary Anderson, as quoted above,

“Right now, though, there is nothing on this car that would make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”


Well said. And Ferrari usually have the best looking car on the grid. This year though, it seems reports say it is an ugly duckling.


Really? I like this years McLaren but thought last years hideous.


Actually I dont’t agree. I think McLaren have for some time produced the best looking car on the grid, but it is helped enormously by their colour scheme. The all red Ferrari is OK but not breathtaking.


Merely observing that elements of McLarens are more shapely and developed looking than most other cars rather than making a comment on whether this car or the Ferrari are going to be fast—the Ferrari will doubtlessly be fast.

My observation is that Ferrari tend to design their cars conservatively and develop them over the season, as opposed to this McLaren, which looks to have small details already quite developed. Neither is “better.” I just enjoy looking at McLaren’s eye for details, as I said in the original post.


and so say i…


Fair points, I probably mis-read your original posting, specifically “I’ll be surprised if the Ferrari is this developed.”

Regarding Ferrari being conservative, I’d say in the last 2 or 3 years, I’d agree, when Aldo Costa has been the head there, I have to assume it has to do with being Italian at Ferrari with all the pressure that brings.

Prior to that, you have Rory Byrne designing cars, which some of the detailing during teh Schumacher years was ground breaking and made everybody else suddenly pedestrian.

Certainly the 2002 Ferrari caught every team out with how tightly packaged and how small the rear of the cars was.

I expect a different philosophy now that Fry is heading up the design dept.


Glad they at least listened to Hamilton (complained on a BBC TV segment) and improved on the WING MIRRORS! 😉


Well McLaren always seem to produce good looking cars of late, but looks are as nothing in the race for performance. I hope it’s a good car, but it’s well to remember more refinement through testing will come before qualifying in Melbourne which is the only place where the truth will be revealed. Remember how deceptive the Ferrari was on test, however the Red Bull car is the one I want to see. Good Luck McLaren I hope you can win this year!


Nice looking car as usual from McLaren but did anybody see the comment from sutil calling lh a coward and no longer regards him as a friend


hmmm… I am wondering if we have not seen the real front nose yet…. I have seen Macca through the years show us one thing at kick-off and something else come testing

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