McLaren ready higher nose and pit-stop changes for Spain
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 May 2012   |  11:10 am GMT  |  69 comments

McLaren is set to run with the higher nose it ran on the MP4-27 right at the end of the Mugello test in Spain this weekend, its team principal Martin Whitmarsh today revealed in a conference call with journalists, with the team also making changes to its pit-stop procedures in wake of the problems of recent races.

Having bucked the trend for stepped noses seen elsewhere on the grid in the design of its latest car owing to its predecessor’s higher chassis profile, pictures from the final day of last week’s Mugello test appeared to show the Woking team’s MP4-27 running with a revised nose cone, with more gradual curve in evidence.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in on Wednesday morning, Whitmarsh confirmed the modified nose had been tried – although pointed out that this was only one of several changes to the front of the car ahead of Barcelona. He added that there was a “reasonable chance you will see it on Sunday, yes” following further assessments by the team during Friday practice.

Asked if the change had been influenced by the platypus-style noses on rival cars, he replied: “I think there must be a bit of that, but I think actually if you look at the detail a bit, the height of the front of the nose is one of the more minor pieces of that new front wing assembly. So there is a range of things. We’re consistently developing the car so a lot of what we were doing was gathering information [at Mugello]. It’s unusual these days of course to have a mid-season test, so we felt we would use that to gather lots data and I’m sure, aside from the nose, you would have seen there were all sorts of appendages, sensors and equipment wedded to the car over the course of the three days.”

With the regulations around what designers can do at the rear of the car now more tightly controlled than ever, Whitmarsh says the front of the car naturally comes in for increased attention and is where McLaren has been focusing on with the latest update – trying to improve airflow going over the car. “Nowadays in Formula 1 the incremental improvements are generally modest and typically you are looking at the aerodynamic performance through corners,” he explained. “So you log a lot of data, classically of course you are looking for lower drag, higher downforce. In the case of front wing and the nose, there’s the attachment pylons – which you may have noticed are quite a lot different – and then the wing’s flap and end plates themselves there are all subtle differences. You’re managing the airflow that is enjoyed by the rest of the aerodynamic-generating surfaces and features of the car.

“It’s nowadays quite a critical part of the car – you’re looking to find very small improvements. There’s a lot of restrictions and prescription around the end of the car, so you can often generate more performance by managing the flow that arrives at them than developing them themselves. Clearly it was really a data gathering that’s given our engineers a lot of information and you will see it in Barcelona. For the race engineers and the race drivers it will be the first time they experience it and they’ve got the data to set it up and they can find the performance on the track.”

He also confirmed that changes to both the team’s pit stop personnel, and procedures, were afoot after problems with problematic left-rear wheel nuts in both China and Bahrain. “We’ve looked at what we were doing, we have made some changes to the team and the process and we’ll see them on Sunday in Barcelona.” Whitmarsh also expressed surprise that so many people had put themselves forward for roles in the crew: “I wondered whether we would get volunteers for some of the more critical positions and I was just astounded by just how many guys in the team wanted to put themselves in those challenging positions. It reflects well on the spirit within the team. There’s been a reasonable amount of practice, some changes in process and they’ll be seen at the weekend. I believe we’ll have good pit stops.”

The changes to the front of the MP4-27 and the team’s pit-stop procedures come as it attempts to rediscover the kind of race performance it displayed at the season-opener in Australia. Despite claiming two poles and front-row berths at every race so far in 2012 (although Lewis Hamilton didn’t start from second in China owing to a grid penalty), McLaren returned to Europe once more trailing Red Bull in the championship after problems with race pace – particularly in Bahrain – but Whitmarsh is hopeful the team not have a better handle on how best to use Pirelli’s tricky tyres.

“I think we’ve had a car that’s clearly been able to be on the front row in each of the four grands prix so far and therefore inherently the pace is there,” he said. “We haven’t got all the results that we wanted…but I believe we will be competitive in Spain and going forward. You don’t know what other teams are yet to do, I know we’re working hard to understand the tyres and understand the car and continuously develop it, and we know others are doing the same.  “I think within the team at the moment there is a positive feeling. We had a very interesting data-gathering test at Mugello and we’ll see in Barcelona.”


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James, a couple of questions.

1. Let’s start from 2010, where we had an amazing year that featured 5-driver battle for championship which wasn’t settled until the last round. All three teams had good cars and they were pretty much equal. So why make a clean new sheet for everyone to start again for 2011?

2. Basing on the previous question, Ferrari had a good car. They must’ve based their 2011 car on the 2010 car. How can they have performed so badly? Why not just use the 2010 car and add mroe bits to it rather than changing designs?

It seems McLaren do a better job of carrying bits over from what’s learnt in the previous year. According to history, Adrian Newey’s designs tend to fade away as rules become more stablised, so not really surprised that RBR this season isn’t the car to beat (so far).

One last note: I truly believe that the FIA and those high and almighty in the F1 racing party that they’ve been misled by what’s needed. Everyone’s been saying “overtaking” when in fact it is “fighting” that we wants. “Fighting” also features “overtaking” but requires skills, rather than any sorts of aid to perform this action. I’d imagine fans would be more thrilled to see a good fight, overtake or not. What do you think? Mind helping to put this forward to the FIA?



Ferrari stole a march on the others by driving down pit stops times to less than 3 seconds, so its put a lot of pressure on other teams to catch up. They need to locate the gun on the wheel nut faster (& reliably), you need to undo the nut faster (power of gun, “distance” to undo nut), you need to have snag free removal and replacement of wheels, you need to locate the wheel nut faster with more tolerance to misalignment/cross threading, you need to tighten the wheel nut faster (again power/distance), you fast/clear communication/release procedures and you need the driver to stop very precisely in the box. I’d say the wheel guns/nuts must have had significant development from last season to get the time improvements we’ve seen. And even if that all works reliably in practice pit stops, at race temps the nuts/wheels might not behave identically.

I wouldn’t blame the McLaren wheelman, more likely their whole pit stop process wasn’t up to doing the times they wanted reliably.


The wheelman will be changed to someone else within the team If it was a design change or equipment failure – very unlikely twice in a row then he would still be there and someone else would have got the kicking.

The the poor bugger will always have a shadow over him now if he stays at Mclaren.

The nuts are brand spanking new for each race and ‘run in’ and lubed and checked ok- as is each spare they carry in case of problems.

The threads they use are something like M42J x 3mm i think, on a hard anodised taper locked nut against the wheel on a coated steel stub axle – i doubt anything has changed there. The guns are renewed every couple of years and checked every race, so i’d doubt much has changed there either.

Gotta be user error.


I have been wondering why the majority of teams have gone with the “step” nose and not a more smooth flowing one like the McLaren. With the times so tight this year – what are the pro’s and con’s of each design??


Well it’s carried over from last year.

Last year everyone bar McLaren copied Red Bull’s style of a higher nose for air to flow to the diffuser area.

This year everyone stayed pretty much the same, but basing on last year’s design, a step-nose is required to fit the new rules. Since McLaren used a low nose last year, this year they didn’t need to change much.

If everyone started this year with a low nose, it’d be a new learning curve again and that’d be a pain in the backside, not to mention everything learnt last year would have gone to trash.


I can believe some comments about the tyre change mechanic. This is F1 and if you mess it up that bad once you should not have another go! let alone two weekends. Surely it cant be just the thread on left rear ?

I hope Maclaren sort out there strategies and stop favouring Jenson, its pretty clear something is not right there! Im starting to loose confidence in their abilty to make the right calls

With such a raft of updates that MW mentioned I would have made certain that both Jenson and Lewis got everything they could out of Mugello so they know exactly what to do for Barcelona testing. Makes no sense to me. If it was minor tweaks I could understand!


MW says the height of the nose isn’t the main feature. I notice on pics of Turvey testing at Mugello there seems to be an additional vertical aerofoil under the nose between the two pylons. Of course this could be a measuring device used during testing only but maybe part of the new features he is alluding to?


Are McLaren running Hamilton and Button this weekend?


Nah, its Ron and Whitmarsh. Winner gets to back their favourite driver for WDC.. first corner crash if ever there was one! 😉


James, what happened to the original crew members that failed the pitstops previously and got changed? Were they fired or just reassigned with new roles?


I’ll ask


Thank you James =)

Rafael Sanchez

After reading a column you wrote on a business deal between McLaren and Glaxo Pharmaceutical a few months back, I got my company interested in the possibility of entering a similar deal with an F1 team, if not McLaren themselves.

Is there any source of information regarding the results (benefits or not) obtained by companies that entered F1 as sponsors?

Are there other F1 teams following what you suggested in 2007 seen later in the McLaren/Glaxo deal?

We found this subject fascinating at our company and will greatly appreciate any input you could provide us, so we may contact the right people.

Also, is this the best way to contact you?

Many thanks James.


I’ve passed your note onto a couple of involved people and we’ll see what comes back


James, do you think it was a strange decision by McLaren not to have Jenson or Lewis testing the new nose at Mugello?


Not James here, but I’d say it’s a proper and good decision.

First coz drivers get a good break.

Second so drivers can tell how much differences between the old and new spec in race circumstances.


How will Mclaren be feeling James at this stage? At times they have had the fastest car over the 4 races and yet still behind Red Bull in both championships. Must be pleased to out of the gate fast from the off but rather disapointed they have given cruical points away to their rivals.


Yes, in sport you cannot afford to give presents to your rivals. McLaren has always done this, if you look. Here they had a chance to open a margin over Red Bull who struggled with the new rules in the first three races. Now they are right there.

But the baseline competitiveness of this car gives McLaren a lot of hope.


I often wondered what happened to Mansell’s rear wheel man after Portugal ’91. Somehow I don’t think Nigel would have been very understanding.


Sorry to be negative but mclaren will continue to take points off each other and at the end if the season end up with nothing.

I don’t really care which driver they back just wish they would do it.


would this be better written as ‘taking points off each other just like Red Bull haven’t done for the last two seasons’…and won everything into the bargain. Racing improves the breed. Forget that at your peril.


I disagree entirely. Supporting both drivers maximises the chances of winning the constructors’ championship. Having two top drivers also takes points away from competitors from other teams too, and doesn’t cheat the fans out of seeing a true championship when one team dominates.

Full credit to Mclaren for providing two worthy competitors to cheer for. Now if they can only stop bungling the pitstops…..



Mclaren for the quality of car they have built have won nothing very little over the years. They need to be far more ruthless like they were with Heikki.

[mod] I do accept your point about it being better for the fans but in my view they need to make a choice early in the season when it becomes clear who is the better chance. So if I was whitmarsh I would make that choice by silverstone.

[We are over the 2007 story with McLaren- thanks Mod]


The Constructor’s points are worth money to the team so I wouldn’t say they’d end up with nothing. The WDC is just bragging rights for the driver and leverage for contract negotiations


Great idea on Mclaren’s part not to have Lewis test the new high front nose at Mugello!


Might the higher nose also facilitate the plumbing for a DDRS?


As always whit marsh is mles off the mark. Last years success for seb was down to not just one thing but the whole team working and pulling in the same direction. Until Maclaren relies the importance of the whole package they will not win the constructors championship. Fingers and toes crossed Merc don,t pull out of F1 and give LH the chance to win drivers championship.

Mahmood from Nigeria

Is it possible that they are setting up foundations for the W-Duct or maybe have already incorporated it.


Hi James.

Could the new nose be a precursor for a front DRS? Any thoughts?




I’ll be looking closely and comparing notes with Gary Anderson and others this weekend


Given the number of changes that MW mentions, they should have got their regular drivers on the track to get a better evaluation of the modifications.


James, with that photo we cannot see that new nose of McLaren’s! 🙁


To me, it looks very similar to the Lotus’s i.e., not really a “step”, more of a curve.

When I first heard this news, immediately I thought “OH NO!” – because I love the aesthetic beauty of this seasons Macca – but it doesn’t actually look that bad.

Try here Kay:


Great set of pics there thanks!


Thank you Steve =)

Don’t look so bad!! =) At least there isn’t a step like all other cars.


was thinking that was a bit silly too seeing its about the main point of the topic.


I don’t believe for a second that Martin Whitmarsh said, “…you would have saw…”


LOL! Thanks for that. Updated!


One must ask if they have changed the design of the axle ends and wheelnuts. The previous problem of the nut cross threading needs a thread re-design.

Perhaps James can do us a feature on wheelnuts used by the various teams, unless they are still secret of course.

I am wondering if any use the double, coarse/fine spline/thread.


They mentioned on one of the commentaries (can’t remember if I was watching Sky or BBC!) that Ferrari had a new thread that was very wide so it needed fewer turns to tighten.

This being one of the factors to Ferrari’s lightening fast pit stops this season.


Looking at those pics in the link from Stevie P below, the only threaded part I can see does not make sense. This is way beyond threads and splines.


Once again a simple innovation(when you think about it)

That is completely mind blowing


This is great news and I hope it helps them get on top of the tyre issues the mp27 seems to be having, although to be fair all teams seem to have issues with the man made, narrow range rubber Pirelli turned out this year….


And they are supposed to


To a point yes, I agree but the current Pirelli’s aren’t my cup of tea.

They seem to encourage the “don’t push too much” school of driving a little too much for my personal tastes. I do understand why others like it this way and it does make for interesting races but…. I would prefer the rubber to handle a bit more without moving out of the operating window and the marbles also seem worse this year too.


I think the term ‘furrows’ would be more appropriate this year.


Shame, as I thought the original curved nose made for a beautiful car but I suppose if the new one makes it go faster…

Andrew Carter

Its still a curved nose, no ugly steps here, it just doesnt curve as much as it used to.


it also looks like they have flattened the nose too.Mostly on the under side


The fastest car is the most beautiful car =)


Earlier in the season they removed the snowplough that they originally had under the nose stating that it was creating too much downforce and they needed to balance out the car. I would expect that the increased nose height is to channel more air through the central portion of the underbody to gain increased rear grip to hopefully improve tire degradation. Seems a logical move from my limited viewpoint. I’m more interested in the rumours that they have adjustable brake vents to allow them to control the heat radiated to the tires in a more controlled way than possible with the traditional gaffer tape on the ducts.

If they are changing personnel in the pitstops is it because they are apportioning blame to that position or is it merely taking the flak off the mechanic in question? Seemed more likely to be an engineering problem than a technique issue.


Changing the personnel may or may not just be to keep the driver happy also, even if Hamilton didn’t ask for him to be removed, he might feel better knowing that he is gone from that role, imagine if that guy ever had another problem, it wouldn’t matter if it was his fault or not!


An adjustable brake vent might be in contravention of Article 11.1.3 of the technical regulations: “Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the brake system is forbidden.”


It isn’t powered though, simply a ratchet system or cable system operated by mechanics at the pit stop to change tyres. It is simply a different method to how they currently adjust the brake cooling. The difference would be in the accuracy and speed of the adjustment.


The vents appear to be adjusted by mechanics at pitstops – they are not powered.


Its adjusted by the mechanic at the pitstop not the driver.


The break vent is adjusted manually by the pit crew and so wouldn’t be considered powered.


I really hope they’ve got on top of the pitstops. As a Mclaren fan it was extremely painful to watch Lewis’ pitstops in Bahrain. The amount of time it cost the team was massive. I don’t imagine it will be too difficult for them to correct the procedures and personnel. Mugello would’ve allowed them plenty of time to test any new equipment they plan to introduce in this area.


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