Fastest car of 2012 made even better: Technical analysis of new McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Jan 2013   |  3:45 pm GMT  |  127 comments

McLaren launched its new 2013 challenger today, an evolution of the 2012 model, which was the fastest car for significant parts of the season, including the beginning and end.

On the face of it, the new MP4/28 looks similar to the 2012 car, but there are several very significant changes and it takes what was good car and makes it, in all probability, even faster. They have made changes which give them a lot of scope for development as the year goes on.

It is a strong gauntlet thrown down by the Woking team to its rivals Red Bull and Ferrari in particular.

They have wisely left unchanged many areas, where there were only small gains to be had; instead they’ve focussed on several key areas where they have already found gains and will find more as the year goes on. This car is all about maximising the air passing under the car and around the side pods down to the rear of the floor and the diffuser, which is where the most downforce is to be gained.

The main changes are the front suspension, the higher front section and the sidepods. But there is a lot more besides. Here is our analysis.

From the front

The front wing is the same as last November, before the US Grand Prix. This is for launch only and will not be for the first race.

The first area of interest is the front brake ducts, which are quite different. Last year the ducts had few vane ad-ons. This year they are more angled to the front wing. This is going to be a real area of development given the change they have made to a pull rod front suspension, of the kind used by Ferrari last year.

This is a fundamental decision and one which they are committed to for the year. The reason why they have switched is because they wanted to raise the front section of the chassis, to improve the air flow under the car and between the chassis and the wheels. However when you do that you raise the centre of gravity, which is a bad thing. You counteract that by using pull rod suspension, which pulls the centre of gravity down again.

Under the nose, the 2012 car had a set of turning vanes, which directed the air down to the diffuser and were quite powerful. They are not on the launch model. It’s likely they will add for testing and race, but if they don’t it means that they are very confident about the connection between the front and the rear.

With the front suspension change, they have had a complete rethink and it opens up areas of aero development outboard and in interaction under the nose.

It’s a long distance from front wing to rear of floor and you need to control that flow.

It’s hard to see it, but the raised nose has a vanity panel, hiding the stepped nose we saw on the Lotus

Big changes to side pods

The shape of the side pods and the side vanes has changed. The vertical vanes more simplistic, they used to have two, now there is only one.

Outboard of the side pod, the detailing is extreme and you can see it runs the length of floor, undercut and very sculpted; this is a very extreme treatment.

What McLaren is trying to do with this area is to create a skirt of air. Air passing through here will create strong vortex shapes and rotational flow to provide a seal of air, crucially so that everything under the floor stays there at all times and does the maximum job at diffuser, which is where the real downforce gains are to be had.

This area of the car has met with gasps of approval from engineers. It’s really nice work.

Coanda exhausts
Last year there was a lot of work done on the exhausts to get them to channel gas pressure down to the diffuser. Here the channel looks similar to 2012, but the floor behind it is a dummy for the launch, it’s surely not what they’ll use in test and race. It is very simplistic.

Given the complexity of the rest of the detailing, such as the side pods, this looks like a dummy panel and it will be interesting to see what they do here in testing and at the first race.

The Rear wing is from last year, which makes sense; there is more to come in this area. Likewise, the roll hoop intake is same, there is not much to be gained here, so they have left it and focussed on where the gains can be had.

Likely development areas
This will be a development race with the other front running care to win the title. McLaren should start strongly with this car. But they will clearly be working hard to bring more performance in particular to the front brake ducts, the air flow under and around the car, the rear floor and the front wing.

The launch model has nose pillars back under front wing, which is interesting. Front balance is always an issue with this generation of F1 cars. McLaren were pushing for front balance in the final races of 2012, often adding flaps and other devices to achieve balance. Here they have addressed that.

McLaren do not have a passive double DRS device on the car (as pioneered by Lotus past season) and although they are investigating it in simulation, they have no immediate plans to bring one onto the car. There is speculation that the Ferrari will have one when it launches tomorrow.

A lot of this work was done in the Toyota wind tunnel, which they have had to share with Ferrari – so the correlation will be the same as Ferrari’s correlation. It is a very good tunnel. McLaren has been subletting its own tunnel to Marussia and is believe to be building a new one. But it will be interesting to compare this McLaren with the Ferrari launched tomorrow, as uniquely they were designed in the same tunnel

[Additional technical input: Mark Gillan}

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I would expect the McLaren to be fast because it is almost always fast. But I think its premature to assume that the changes made at the front will automatically add to their speed. Changing from push to pull rod front suspension is a big change, added to the change in the height of the chassis. Those are significant differences from last year, and if those don't quite work, everything behind them will suffer.

As for the vanity plate - I'm missing something. If teams want a stepped nose for aero purposes, doesn't covering it up with a smoothing plate defeat the purpose?


Thanks for the clarification. But it still makes no sense to me that a team would shape a nose to have the step, and *then* add a plate on top of it. Just shape the nose without the step. *Unless* the team is going to take the plate on an off depending on the race and track characteristics.


It comes down to packaging of the driver and the suspension. If you don't have the step, the front of the tub is lower, which potentially forces the driver's legs down, which in turn eats into the space under the nose for aerodynamic purposes. So if the designer wants that space then the car has to have the step in the regulations. Covering up the step with the vanity panel allows the team to have a smoother surface, which will reduce drag.


The step is not in itself done for an aeroadvantage, it is a side effect. The teams want the underside of the nose as high as possibl in order to feed as much air as possible over the tea tray and around the sidepods. The rules also define a minumum size for the front bulkhead of the chassis(the area you see the nose mounted to). The max height for the underside of the chassis plus the minimum height of the bulkhead determines the top of the step. Then there is a minimum height for the nose itself which happens to be lower the top of the chassis, thus the step.


They can't. The rules state a maximum hight for the nose cone and a, taller, maximum hight for the front of the monocoque and there's only something like a 5cm space between where the one ends and the other starts, hence the step. The plates are added on top for vanity reasons, since the cars are butt ugly without them.


The idea of the stepped nose is not really to lower the front part. The goal is to raise the front of the chassis for airflow. The vanity plate does not affect airflow under the chassis.


Yes I'm interested in clarification here too. I didn't realise the step gave any (significant) aero advantage, and so always wondered why teams previously with the 'ugly' step didn't simply add an angled flap to smooth it out.

Please is there an F1 engineer reading this who can explain this simple subject? 😉


Ooops, in the 2 mins it took me to input my comment, it's been answered, above! Thanks


Stepped noses were a result of the reg changes: the FIA lowered the max height for the nose on safety grounds, to prevent a car spearing through another, but they kept the max chassis height at the front the same. Since undercar airflow is paramount, most teams pushed the chassis up to the extreme, which made them look silly with the lowered noses.

The plates apparently add a few pts of downforce (in addition to a few gs of weigth), so it's a toss up.


A few pts of downforce?


A few gs of weigth?


The stepped nose wasn't done for aero purposes. They had to make height changes to the front of the car in order to make the cars more safe. In order not to suffer to much from this, most teams chose the stepped nose solution.

This vanity panel has no aero significance whatsoever, but it looks better to the fans and sponsors. It does however add a couple of grams to the cars weight, and that's why Lotus didn't include it.

Scuderia McLaren

So far so good. Despite having stable rules for 2013, it has not stopped McLaren aggressively chasing performance and taking risks in their design.


It's the wrong move in my view. McLaren had the fastest car for something in the region of 65% of last season. They had a dip in form about three quarters of the way into the season, where Red Bull (and specifically Vettel) won numerous races on the bounce. Looking at the later races in the season though, they again had the car to beat.

I feel an evolution of the 2012 car, which is exactly what you'll see from Ferrari and Red Bull, would enable them to again lead the field. McLaren just needed to resolve some reliability issues and they would have won both championships last term.

Take change the design philosophy at this point surely puts them at a real disadvantage to the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari both of whom have worked with the higher nose, and it's ad/disadvantages for 12 months now.

I was all set to predict a championship winning year for JB this term, but now I think it'll be another Alonso vs Vettel battle.

unF1nnished business

Agreed. They should definitely be focusing on making the car more reliable. I don't recall what was the most predominant technical failure for the MP427 last year, but the speed was definitely there.


I think the whole problem was there was no one predominant technical issue. Every issue was something different.


Red Bull and Ferrari will have done exactly the same as McLaren, took their 2012 cars and dramaticly revised them. Thats what happens unless there is a change in the formula. its just like a new VW Golf 🙂

Marcus in Canada

If they kept following the same concept they would run out of development possibilities as the year went on. They have to PLAN on the development race, not just react and make it up as they go.



McLaren have taken a punt with radical changes allowing them to keep developing throughout the course of the year. RedBull and Ferrari may have the upper hand for the early parts of the season but their cars are likely to flat line (Thats if they follow on from last years car).

McLaren have taken a risk but it could be worth it in the end


Although I tend to agree that change for change sake is not so great - during the dip in mid-season, McLaren generally accepted that their development changes suited Lewis driving style and were particularly harsh on Jenson's less aggressive approach. Perhaps now they've the luxury of not building for two very different drivers, they have decided to just build the car which will suit Jenson's strengths (and avoid his weaknesses).

Since the cars will all be SO different in 2014, and McLaren have enough of a budget, it seems like 2013 might be worth a punt on building a car around their drivers generally perceived 'difficulty in warming tyres for quali - good at preserving them in races' style.

The Red Bull actually suffered last year because Vettel suited the counter-intuitive handling of 2011. It was actually Mark Webber who benefited from a more 'frisky' car. RBR eventually came back to Vettel's style.

My (admitted) guess is that McLaren have long tried to cater to both Lewis and Jenson, who were too different to basically drive the same car. Although Jenson got wins in last years car, it was usually through a combination of good luck and Jenson's ability to race harder than he qualifies. Perhaps building a car that will allow two less than stellar qualifiers to jump ahead on Saturday will be the smart move.


MP4-28 will be a good car. Whether it will have a clear advantage none of us know yet. We may get an idea by next Thursday or so, but more likely the later tests.

The tyres are still a major question. Supposedly they will be easier to heat up and therefore have a "wider operating window" but will be even softer to enhance degredation.

Front wing end-plates are radiused to try to avoid punctures but 2012 had plenty. With even softer tyres in 2013 we may see many more puntured tyres whell banging. Perhaps JB's standard tactic of pulling away from any potential tyre-banging conflict (as opposed to LH's never concede) may actually benefit him.


Martin you are not correct in that removing the blown exhaust let Button and Webber closing in on their team mate, because in 2009 the Redbull didn't have a double diffuser or a blown deffuser yet Vettel was the fast driver over the season.


Far too much is made about driving style and car performance. All drivers want more downforce and less drag at both ends of the car and neutral handling. They don't get the last bit. The reality of 2012 was that Coanda exhausts are where the performance came from. McLaren and Red Bull developed the same kind of thing. Exploiting the performance is up to race engineering and the driver.

Early last year the Red Bull design wasn't working correctly, giving slow corner oversteer and fast corner understeer. Webber handled corners that transitioned both realms more comfortably in qualifying than Vettel. Look at the early races and Vettel was still faster. Fundamentally though, the car was wrong.

Vettel and Hamilton both had driving styles or techniques that were able to support the performance offered in the rules by the exhausts. Remove the exhaust effect and yes Webber and Button might be closer to their team mates but all four cars would be slower.

I'm not sure on "McLaren generally accepting its changes were harsh on Button" either. Button's main problem was with suspension setting, which have nothing to do with aerodynamic developments.

Scuderia McLaren

Yeah you might be right there. I suppose when you consider the fact they had the quickest car at various periods of 2012, especially at the end like you mention, the risk might not be wise.

I applaud the risk taken but given what you said probably agree it was unwise to me messing about with new design philosophies such as pull rood suspension, high stepped nose etc.

2013 is going to be mega.

Scuderia McLaren

Yeah I noticed that Onko. A few Red Bull and Ferrari parts in the new McLaren it seems to me. I agree with your point, without Hamilton, one will wonder how much more would be available each Quali Session. I have less concerns about overall year championship pts though as Button does well there, but yes, the quali will be a concern for sure. If Button wins WDC, I dont think people saying, "imagine what hamilton would have done" is correct as Button did get more pts over three years and in 2011 in particular. So it could swing either way in that regard. But that outright, Balls out pace, is in question for sure.


Hey Scud, the other love in your life

McLaren they can't help them selfs can they, with the copying of your other admiration in your life and my love to

The Ferrari with the pull rod suspension

and may be some more, none the less top

car though, however without Hami one feels it will not achive its full potential.



James, remind me please, why McLaren are using the Toyota wind tunnel, when they have one (or is ir two) of their own?


It's sublet to Marussia and isn't mega enough for them any more

The Toyota one is really good, which is why Ferrari also use it


Ok James. Happy to know that the Toyota wind tunnel is very good. I guess it is fair to say that McLaren and Ferrari will be somewhat at the same level. But I don´t believe that Ferrari and McLaren are going to be at the same level as Red Bull. At least Ferrari has Alonso. They can have some hope.


Didn't McLaren have two tunnels? One could quess they are using theirs and then re-validating results in Toyota tunnel. So they get two sets of data.


Not sure about Mclaren, but in the Schumi years, Ferrari were operating two tunnels 24 hours a day, all year round.

A lot of the FIA ruling restricting use of tunnels, Resource Restrictions and holidays in the summer and over the winter was to eradicate this massive expense.


Resource restrictions would limit too much comparison work on tunnels.


The air skirts seem like a very neat idea! These guys are literally making air do tricks for them. ¦¬)

One question, though. McLaren didn't have the step on the nose last year. Why would they need the vanity panel now? Are they conceding the step is indeed an advantage and adopting it?


The pic from the front of the car, under the nose, shows how AMAZING the detailing is on the floor. I want that kind of texture on my walls!


Because they have raised the front of the chassis, as most teams did last year


Forgive the noob question/naivety but doesn't adding a vanity panel to the stepped nose negate the effect of the stepped nose?

I presume I'm missing something pretty fundamental here...


No one has answered my very basic question about the nose. Why would you make a stepped nose, only to then add the plate on top? I understand the "vanity" purpose of the plate. But then why not just shape the nose smoothly. Why make *2* parts when you can make *1*. Unless the team is going to remove the plate from race to race, this seems silly to me.



It's not just the tip of the nose that must be lower for driver safety in a crash, but almost the entire nose forward of the suspension pickup points. Without the vanity plate, there is no way to smooth the nose without lowering the suspension pickup portion of the chassis, which would then lower the bottom surface of that area of the chassis.

The height of the bottom surface of the area of the chassis containing the front suspension pickup points is what teams are trying to maximize, but packaging and regulations mean that if you want to raise the bottom, you have to raise the top, hence the step. So, within the regulations, there is no way to raise the chassis to the maximum height without stepping up from the maximum height of the nose.


Yes, lovely explanation Snort


I've gotten about 10 different responses to this question, and this is the first one that actually came close to answering the question! Thanks.


Thanks everyone for the stepped nose explanation!


The stepped nose is a product of raising the structural elements of the nose as high as possible rules permitting.

This year you can mount a vanity plate on top of this making it seem higher and maybe more pleasing to the naked eye.


The benefit of the stepped nose doesn't come from the top of the nose cone - it's from the underneath.

The designers generally like to make the underside of the nose as high and flat as possible. If you push this design goal to its (legal) limits, then the various rules on maximum heights and minimum cross-sectional areas mean that you end up with a step on top of the nose.

The step probably causes some increase in drag but apparently this effect is very small, to the extent that Lotus were unwilling to expend even a few grams of weight to cover it.


Stepped nose doesn't have aero advantage. It's just a hacky solution to maximise the gap (i.e. airflow) under the nose, whilst staying below the 2012 FIA rule for maximum height (introduced to reduce risk of high noses taking out another driver in an accident). Some teams took the opportunity to twiddle with aero at the step, but it's not there out of choice.

The vanity panel is super-thin to break apart harmlessly on impact, while the stepped nose remains structural underneath. It's purely aesthetic so sponsors don't have to look embarrassed at platypus cars quacking their way around the circuit 🙂

Scuderia McLaren

The benefit of the stepped nose come from raising the chassis and getting more airflow underneath the car. The actual step on top is not an aero benefit, at least not yet. Some will opt for the vanity plate, other will not want the extra needless grams. McLaren perhaps are so under the min weight, needing so much ballas, that the vanity plate's weight is possibly irrelevant.


Just out of interest, is the Toyota wind tunnel on 50% or 60% scale?

Although you mentioned about the nose / stepped nose, James, there weren't photos of it! 🙁


Just look at the first pic at the top. You cant see the step because its got the plate on top of it.

Alberto Martínez

Great article as always James! A great insight into where the development race it´s going to take place.

Do you believe top teams fighting for the championship will be able to develop their cars until the final races (bearing in mind the big changes ahead of them for 2014)?


They can and will. The question is whether it will be like 2008/9 when Ferrari and McLaren found that other teams that had nothing to loose abandoned 08 and developed a better 09 car like Honda/Brawn, Toyota and Williams.


Honda/Brawn, Toyota and Williams were faster because of the double diffuser, but without that they would had been at the same level.


No he is right, the Brawn, Toyota and Williams were quick due to the Double Diffuser. They were good cars in their own right regardless to varying degrees though.

The Mclaren developed into a race winner, the Ferrari into a podium challnger.


Oh please, the Ferrari and McLaren were flawed designs right from the word go.


Ferrari say they have two entirely separate design teams working on their 2013 and 2014 cars. Hopefully this means they will be able to, but I imagine some of the midfield teams and stragglers might have problems!


So do McLaren, every year!


I still don't see mclaren as title winners this year. They don't have the drivers to beat a red bull designed by newey and drove by vettel and also fernando's Ferrari should be a lot better from the get go this year. For the first time in a long time mclaren don't have one of the best 3 drivers on the grid or in my opinion one of the best 4 as kimi, Lewis, seb and Fernando are better than jenson.


You are making the assumption that Ferrari won't produce another lemon!


"People intentionally ignore there are 2 RBR cars and the second one hardly impresses unless it is a fluke." or they leave all the parts on it and not give them to the first car.


"to beat a red bull designed by newey"

Their 2012 car was faster than the Red Bull already, what are you on about?

This myth that Newey's car are always fastest; his cars did not win a championship between 2000 and 2010. Vettel started driving them and boom, it all fell into place. People intentionally ignore there are 2 RBR cars and the second one hardly impresses unless it is a fluke.

Also Newey said himself that Vettel flatters his cars.


Newey cars started to win races thanks to the rules changes in 2009. Just compare Mark's seasons 2008 and 2009 and you will realise how HUGE the performance step was. Seb is just the best of the two lucky guys that drive Newey cars.


Dave, the RB5 through to the RB8 were all good cars and did not need a top class driver to be fast. Far from ordinary.

They did, however, need a top class driver to be winning cars. They have that in Vettel, and a sort of 'almost great' driver in Webber.

Newey is not some designing god though. The RB8 was not the fastest car last season for starters. And although the majority of his cars during the period were front runners, from 2000-2009 his cars did not win any championships.

Still, I would rather have Newey in my team than not have him!


No without a top driver like Vettel the Redbull is very ordinary just capable of a few race wins a season but with Vettel (best driver in F1) they dominate, same thing goes for Newey he's a top designer and Vettel need him as much as he need Vettel, Redbull are lucky to have rhem 2 working for them because without them 2 the team would automatically fall back into the midfield, and yeah besides the Mclaren was the faster car last year, just that the reliabilty and drivers that wasn't good enough was their downfall.


Look back at all Newey's Championship winning cars and look at the respective drivers.

1992, Mansell and Patrese

1993, Prost and Hill

1996, Hill and Villeneuve

1997, Villeneuve and Frentxen

1998, Hakinen and Coulthard

1999, as above

2010, Vettel and Webber

2011 and 2012 as above

The only two that seemed to be on a level was Villeneuve and Hill, otherwise one driver made the most of the car, and the other had a few days in the sun.


"It is a strong gauntlet thrown down by the Woking team to its rivals Red Bull and Ferrari in particular."

I highly doubt it will matter. As you've pointed out, they had the fastest car last year and they still couldn't get the job done. Couple this with their driver line-up being much weaker this year and they're going to need a huge car advantage, which is unlikely given that the technical regulations are so stable for 2013.

"Lot of this work was done in the Toyota wind tunnel, which they have had to share with Ferrari"

How is it that the two teams that should be leading the way in innovation, not to mention resources, have had to use somebody else's wind tunnel to produce a car that they can understand? Red Bull must be laughing their socks off.


This is exactly the point. Button and Perez would need such a massive speed advantage anyway. In qualifying they would both need something like 0.7+ seconds advantage.

The Red Bull is going to be built to it's qualifying max. as in the last 3 years, and Hamilton and Alonso can qualify above the realms of expectation.


Macca is having a new tunnel built as we speak and the old one I think is not powerful enough or big enough to get good data on a 60% model as if a tunnel is too small you can always measure the outboard airflow as accurately as you'd like. Therefore they are using the Toyota tunnel which is said to be one of the best in the world (defo Europe).

Ferrari as we all know had problems with the comparisons they were drawing between tunnel and track and quickly realised they needed to correct this as soon as possible. They decided to refurbish and upgrade their tunnel and if your own facility is out of action and you can get access to one of the best tunnels there is then it's a no brainer.

Hope that helps answer your question.


Im not sure why Mclaren is using the Toyota facilities, but Ferrari have correlation problems with their own tunnel for a couple of season at least.

I well remember during 2010, certain updates they had, didn't produce the improvements they expected and it was around that time they spoke of wind tunnel issues.

This year, Ferrari is having their own windtunnel repaired(?) and is using the Toyota windtunnel for all development work on this car.

By all accounts, they will have theirs up and running again in August.

Mclaren letting their tunnel out to Marussia is astonishing. Surely they would only let it out when restrictive regulations means they can't use it?


If what James has said in other replies is true then McLaren must think the Toyota tunnel is better than their current one so whilst they're waiting for a new one to be built, borrow a better one and sub let their own to a team that hasn't got one.


Exactly Andrew - their not stupid


The irony missed by McLaren/Ferrari and their fans is comical.

"Fizzy drink company" trumps them at what they claim to be superior at.


The step is not of itself an aero advantage - it is just the ugly left-over of having a high chassis but not being allowed a high nose. McLaren have for 2013 copied most other teams and gone high chassis, so they do have a stepped nose. But - this year they are allowed to cover up the step.

Make sense? The step was not a thing in itself - it was only a consequence. McLaren 2012 tried to have a low chassis, but now they have gone with the prevailing wisdom.


The stepped nose was always allowed and able to be covered up, in a more aesthetic way then most teams did last year. Their choices entirely; only McLaren and Marussia got it right.


McLaren definitely got it wrong last year and are making amends now. They should have raised their chassis last year and they were constantly hunting for the missing df (compared to red Bull) as a result. Hopefully for them this was the missing piece of the jigsaw, because their 2012 car was excellent in every other respect.


They were the fastest car in 2012!

The Marussia was arguably the joint fastest 'new team' car too despite the lack of KERS.

The two teams without a stepped nose were notably fast last season.

What confuses me is why switch to the higher chassis now of all seasons? They have been running a low chassis every year since 2009 which is why they didn't need the stepped nose in the first place.

Ok, so every other team is pretty much going for maximum air to the rear ofthe car via a high chassis. But like I said, why are Mclaren following them NOW after having been the fastest car last season for the first time in years?


The 2013 rules were specifically bent to allow for the stepped noses to be covered. The 2012 rules didn't allow eams to cover them; also the 2012 McLaren and Marusia did not have stepped noses, so for those two, there was nothing to consider covering.


I'd assume the raised nose this year would suggest that Mclaren believed they got it wrong..


Great pics and good descriptions. Thanks for this and please do a similar one for all of the top-5 teams!


Great insight James as always! I saw the MP4-28 and thought it looked the exact same as the 27 bar the front suspension, but having this to read is brilliant. Looking forward to the F138 tomorrow! Hopefully it looks better than last year.


Well as usual it is a good looking car with some fundamental changes. It remains to be seen if it is also fast relative to the competition, but full marks for effort. As the tyres have gone even more aggresive this year I expect their will be a further learning curve to be ascended as teams wrestle with understanding how to get the best balance for the prevailing conditions. I look forward to qualifying in Melbourne


No mentioning about the rear of the car. Diffuser seemed almost missing from the car - also one simplistic dummy part on it.


That's because they use a dummy floor for the launch. That isn't the same floor they will use in jerez. Instead of putting a blanking plate on the diffuser which they have done since 2010, they decided to just have the diffuser without the strakes. That floor looks like one from early last year, minus the diffuser strakes.

Come Tuesday, that car will look very different.


The stepped noses were not due to aero gain, but simply due to the requirement for the teams to lower the nose (ie nose *cone* height) to prevent up-and over accidents like Schumacher/Liuzzi and Webber/Kovy.

Some teams for their own reasons wanted to retain the height of the tub (front bulkhead?), so the FIA allowed this resulting in the need for a step. Some teams have tried to get aero gain from it, but it is a secondary function of the situation.

I suppose a vanity plate is basically superfluous, so I would expect most teams not to run it to save weight unless there is an aero/drag advantage form running it.

McLaren didn't run maximum permissable front bulkhead/chassis height last year, but seem to have now relented to get the maximum air under the car. So in their case it really is "vanity"!


Beautiful car and the one to beat this season, I think.

It's a pity Lewis won't be driving it, he really would have liked it.

And what of Jenson and Sergio... one is to young and I don't believe has the skill to be champion, the other... well, if he manages to group everyone behind him, he might be the contender for WDC crown.


Honestly, speed is nothing if you can't finish and McLaren has shown an extraordinary skill at shooting themselves in the foot. This will probably be another Red Bull year.


Not like the old days of unveiling a new car, teams are fast enough to not only copy ideas but also improve them. So it 'cards to chest'.

Lotus and Mclaren both look like their respective 2012 cars. Mclaren have historically always turned up to the 1st race with a diffident looking car so I guess the real launch of the new cars will be at the 1st testing in Melbourne.


Sorry James, off topic question. Are you going to Italy for Ferrari´s presentation tomorrow? I asked because Andrew Benson said he is going.


No. I'm doing Force India at Silverstone

I have someone out in Maranello though


You sent someone to Maranello and chose Force India instead...? I think this is the biggest shock of 2013 done and dusted!


Thanks. I hope Force India surprises everybody with the new driver besides the new car and Di Resta


with all the changes to the 2013 concept is it really an evolution or a whole new design as mclaren are saying?


Bit of both by the looks of it.


Pops read your first response earlier in the comments and concluded you and I are the only ones with any savvy.

Despite all the pretend aero designers gibberish the front side profile looks zackery like last years car. No modesty panel was needed then, isn't now.

Nothing there, we should all move on.


What about the whole stepped-nose business?


Here's hoping for JB's second title. People wright him off all too easily but all he needs is to repeat his 2011 performances and he'll be a contender.


2011? Sure, he came second...122 points behind Vettel


In a car that wasn't anywhere near as good as the Red Bull.


In a car just about as good as the Red Bull, faster in some instances.

Vettel was simply un-touchable in 2011, and seemed to make best use of the blow diffuser.


Jenson will be much much stronger this year, tyre change will work to his advantage, and having the edge on Sergio at the start of the year will also work to his advantage, if McLaren are fast out of the blocks and Jenson can qualify like he did in the first 7 races of 2009 when the car was to his liking, we will have a great year!


But will the tyre change work to his advantage? That's what everybody expected from him since Pejelly came into the sport, but most of his struggles last year revolved around tyres.


When exactly did he get the edge on Sergio??

I don't think you can rely on a massively dominant car like 2009.... there are no loopholes to exploit.


When I saw the car and read the reports I was positive for the Mcl team. However i have now heard the post launch interviews and believe Mcl are doing the rounds again. Nothing has really changed. JB says all the right things but seriously unless he has changed his driving style he won,t quallify high enough. Checo is already trying to hard to impress and I can see him tripping himself up. Talking about beating every Tom , Dick and Harry will not help his cause. Whitmarsh is simply not good enough.Yes he seems like a nice enough bloke but I question if he has the killer instinct needed to win the WCC at this level??!! All in all same old Mcl, I would love to see LH,FA and Vetel going head to head for the whole season.With LH winning!!!!!!!


Do Mclaren try to hard to build the fastest car?

I say this because more often then not in the last 15 years Mclaren have had the fastest cars. Yet won no constructor titles, While Ferrari always seam to have the most reiliable and have won 8 titles in that time. I wonder if Mclaren try to hard to be the fastest and run at 100% then things break. And Ferrari run at 95% and keep going. Mclaren have had the faster car in 99/03/05/07/08/12 granted they was thrown out of the championsip in 07 but thats at least 6 years of the top of my head. Also Williams had a couple of fast cars in that time and they faild with reliabilaty.


McLaren did NOT have the fastest car in 2003, not by any stretch. 05 we had a Mercedes hand grenade as an engine, that cost us the title in 03 as well. 07 and 12 should have easily been both titles wrapped up for McLaren. 08 we had a 1 man team, hard to win a constructors title against a team with 2 top tier drivers vs Lewis with Heikki as his number 2.

Ferrari lucked into the title in 07 and since then have been 3rd team at best. Fernando was close in 2010 because the Red Bull was unreliable and last year he drove superb but again, other drivers misfortunes helped him a lot. Lewis should have run away with the title last year. McLaren's reliability cos them 2nd place in the Constructors last year, Ferrari have been mediocre for years. Ferrari hasn't been the same team since 2004, and McLaren hasn't been the same since 2005, McLaren seem to have lost their balls since Ron has stepped down. I think Martin is a bit soft, thats all.


So having a ludicrously dominant car in the latter half of 2006 (just compare the 248F1's Q2 pace against that of the Renault R26 and others), then 3 front running cars in the next four years (F2007, F2008 and F10. All second best at worst) is being 'mediocre'?

The F2005 wasn't bad either, just the tyre regulations that season were highly detrimental to the Bridgestone tyres Ferrari used.

In fact the only 'mediocre' car they have produced since their dominant 2004 season was the 2009 F60.

RE: Mclaren... Besides the winless 2006, they have been a front runner every year since 2005 (only in the second half of 2009 though).

Some perspective please...



1) Mclaren cheated with their 2007 contender. They were found guilty in court.

2) Ferrari may not be the dominant juggernaut they were in 2004, but 2005 was the ridiculous 1 tyre per race duration rule that handicapped them against all the Michelin teams.

They nearly won the 2006 Championship.

2007 they took both titles and won the WCC in 2008 and nearly won the WDC too.

If you had said since 2009, I'd agree with you entirely, but I think the people that are being employed by Fry now and the rebuilding of the infrastructure that Aldo Costa let fall years behind the times will make a difference.

Regarding Alonso and last year, he suffered a pretty damaging bit of misfortune when Grosjean decided to vault him at Spa.


Everyone is running dummies. Mclaren will undeniably will be the fastest car in 2013, for their domination of Final three races (Hamilton's domination of Abu Dhabi) is a reflection of just how dominant the car was. Since, 2013 is the year of evolution it is rational to conclude that Mclaren will be the most dominant team of 2013.

Having said that, the only weakness this team has is their driver lineup. They are missing a hero.

Lotus has its hero in Kimi

Red bull has its hero in Vettel

Ferrari has its hero in Alonso

Mercedes has its hero in Hamilton.

Mclaren has its hero in ???

The car needs to at least half a second quicker per lap to compensate the driver deficit. Anything lower than that would make the Mclaren gobbled up by the competition especially, Kimi, Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton who can do things in a half a second slower car which the current Mclaren drivers can only dream of.


I'm not so sure Kimi can tbh.

Some very seasoned F1 journalists and observers have suggested that he lacks a 1/10 or 2 from when he was at his peak. They also claimed that many people thought Lotus would have won quite a bit more if Alonso or Hamilton had been in the car.

Vettel? He had a 1/2 second a lap slower car between Bahrain and Singapore. Valencia aside, when that car was supreme, what did he achieve with it? Is it still a statistic that Vettel has not won from lower than 3rd on the grid?

To my mind, only Alonso and Hamilton have shown that ability.


"Is it still a statistic that Vettel has not won from lower than 3rd on the grid?

To my mind, only Alonso and Hamilton have shown that ability."

And Hamilton hasn't won from lower than 4th on the grid.


He was there. Always.

Everybody lables his performance in the first half of 2012 as poor, saying he struggled with the car.

Well, he did appear to struggle with the car. Despite this, he still matched his team mate (arguably bettered him in the races). And was always there.

Not exactly poor in my book. Nor does it show a lack of ability to drive a miss-handling car.


Yes, there is an element wonder of if Kimi pushed hard enough for wins in first part of the year, and yes Hamilton and Alonso would've won more races in E20 in the first part of the year. But then again, neither of them were returning to F1 after two years of absence with a point to prove and the world media and entire F1 fraternity scrutinising his return not to mention the his own team The Lotus.

But, I did manage to find a pattern to his approach in 2012. According to me and if paid attention to would be noticed that he designated the first half of 2012 to consolidate his position in F1 and also to familiarise himself to different tires and cars without having a bad race in process, which he did commendably, and having achieved that he designated the second half of the year for his full blown assault with his signature white-knuckled spine-chilling drives with overtakes that were nothing short from being simply phenomenal.

So, in short the first half was for the F1 fraternity and all his critics and the second half was for him, his team and his fans.

There is ofcourse an element of truth to the fact that he may have lost 1/10th since his peak, yet the moves he pulled off without DRS during the second half of the season on a consistent basis was the baseline that though he may or may not have had lost a tenth here and a tenth there and yet he was phenomenally the most exciting driver of 2012. The only drives that can come remotely parallel to them are the Vetel drives in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, Hamilton's Austin drive, Alonso's Valencia drive.

So I think all in all he does qualify as a hero and responsible to bring superstardom back into F1, without him everybody were like goodie-two-shoes, he came with a rebel element won fans over worldwide.

I rather support a podium of Kimi than a win from anyone else.


Hi James, good technical analysis, do you feel that Mclaren could develop the car further (maybe testing will show more). As a comparison to last year where Mclaren had been struggling during the middle phase's.

With the stepped body, it looks neat how Mclaren managed to use the Vanity cover to good affect, and I too believe there will be a turning vanes that will be enclosed further like in Ferrari F2012. Now I cant wait to see the rest of the F1 challengers, starting off with Ferrari.


As usual, McLaren have produced a beautiful car that is almost certainly going to be fast.

Lovely engineering... Pity about the drivers though. One is a smooth politician (and little else); while the other only seemed fast at a time the teams hadn't understood the tyres (but Sauba had), his real level has since come to light.


Good design concept, lots of dummy parts for now.

Testing will reveal all.

If this car comes out fast from race one and if Macca continue their aggressive development then I dont see why this can't be a title winning car.

Lets wait for Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Question now - Does Button and Perez have the raw speed to make the best of that car?

Can't wait for the first race!


very good article james, i hope your next article includes what button and peres think of their new car and what their game plan may be this season. from what you have presented us, there are significant changes to the car and there has also been a significant change to the mclaren personnel. i can only guess that their game plan may also have been significantly changed aimed solely at winning this years drivers championship with the added bonus of the constructors. from whitmarsh revealing that he asked hamilton what mclaren could have done for hamilton to choose to stay only for hamilton to say nothing, meaning mclaren did everything they could have done...only for ron dennis to say, a few weeks later, they could have kept hamilton if they wanted to. on extrapolating, ron would have the last and widest grim if button won the championship in 2013. i guess all efforts will be piled on button to win it this year. reasons being that they've started using words like 'perez has a lot to learn' and 'button is the most experienced driver.'


I can't see how are people are saying it looks exactly the same as last year with that higher nose and high set openings in the side pods and different suspension. Ok the livery is the same but it's not like going to your local dealer and saying "I will have that rocket red one" is it ???

For me the biggest challenge for Mclaren will be how well the drivers and engineers adapt that front pull rod suspension because that higher nose with different suspension must surely be different to what both Jenson and Cheko drove last year and we all know how Ferrari struggled with front -rear balance earlier 2012. Once Ferrari managed that we could see the accuracy of both Ferrari drivers turn in in the latter part of the season.

Jonathan Neale said it was all about the development pace and how well they could tune the car throughout the season. I think all the teams will start like last year with the stronger ones finding the extra 1 second by half way and then saying goodbye to the rest- Mclaren will probably be one those .


there's no real world benefit to be had with the pull rod front end.

also surprised to see the driveshafts enclosed. i thought that was not allowed in the regulations?



the photo you have of the new McLaren, i hope the lens used has distorted the proportions of the nose because it was a wide lens otherwise is very butt ugly....:)


Wow, they have been far more aggressive than I thought.

Their exhaust setup was the trickiest to get working but most effective last year so their rivals have gone safer paths while they have kept their great working setup.

The rest of the car surely must be even better than last year which will make the car fastest once they dial it in properly.

Reliability could be a fly in the ointment this year but they have a big weak point in the drivers compared to Ferrari and Red Bull.

Jenson cannot bring it home every race, he needs everything too perfect which you can't get at every track.

Even in his championship year he fluffed it at a lot of races I have no doubt Vet, Alo, Ham, would have got more out of if they were in the Brawn. I like him but if everyone else is on the ball, everything would have to go perfect for him otherwise he's not going to make it.

I might put some money on Sergio to win the title, he is an unknown quantity, he has never had the backing of a top team and this could be when any niggles vanish.

One thing I have hardly seen mentioned, which is in the drivers favour, is that they are both renowned for being soft on their tyres and I thought at the time it may have been why McLaren chose Sergio. Surely they have an advantage with car characteristic possibilities other teams cannot explore due to the effect of tyre wear these two drivers can negate.

I'm very much looking forward to how everyone gets on in the first fly aways.


Help me out here - how is the C of G lowered by pull rods? The roll axis I can see, but the mass s where it is, whether the springs are pushed or pulled? Or are the springs themselves lower on the bulkhead?


Take a look at this; should make it clearer:


Which tells me that exactly as I surmised, the springs and dampers are lower!

However, that page mentions the "front suspension C of G". I'm sure it's a slip of the keyboard, when they mean the "front of the cars C of G"...


Well spotted. It's both.

If you consider the springs and dampers as part of the suspension, then using a pull rod system makes the suspension's mass as a whole lower, thus reducing the CG of the suspension, thus reducing the CG of the front end.


Looks like a big risk to me, they were developing the 2012 car right up until the last race and it was a very good car and now they have decided to completely redesign the car.


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