McLaren today rolled out their 2010 charger, the MP4-25. But how will it fare on the track? Is there anything we can learn from the look of the car as to how it will perform?
The ’25’ is strikingly different to its 2009 predecessor. For a start, the wheelbase is decisively longer; so much so that when McLaren tried to get it into the lift to bring it to Vodafone HQ to be unveiled, it did not fit.
Other noticeable differences are the raised nose, with ridges along the top, a move which is designed to emulate the success of Adrian Newey’s Red Bull RB5 of last year, which by the end of the year had become the aerodynamic yardstick. Another feature of the new McLaren is its shark-fin, anvil shaped engine cover, which again channels the airflow better over the rear wing and thus maximises downforce. Critics of such an engine cover have said that it can increase yaw or sideways movement, but McLaren obviously believe it has a beneficial effect.
The MP4-25 also sports a bulging midriff not dissimilar to a beer belly. This, press were reliably informed, was not ballast but rather the new fuel tank which will have to store enough petrol to get the car from the green light to the chequered flag.
‘The biggest challenge was incorporating the 160kg fuel tank,’ stated Jonathan Neale, McLaren managing director. ‘It affects weight distribution, airflow over the car, at every level.’ Engineering director Paddy Lowe added that ‘the fuel would get very hot’, another potential issue that the team had to solve at source.
McLaren hid their rear diffuser from prying eyes, in the knowledge that as soon as pictures became available rival teams would copy it. Lowe assured the press that the idea of the double diffuser had been ‘exploited as far as possible…it’s a fairly extreme solution and another step further.’
The 2010-spec narrow front tyres are also a key feature. ‘It’s difficult to say how they will behave,’ said Lowe. ‘The jury’s still out on whether the drivers will need to stop once or twice.’ It is clear that tyre management, which has been a weakness of both Button and Hamilton in the past, will become something both need to master if they are to stay competitive in 2010.
Team principal Whitmarsh said that not stopping for tyres would ‘improve the spectacle as the incentive to overtake is greater.’ Neale added that he envisaged teams being able to change the four tyres during a race ‘within 3 seconds’, raising the spectre of extremely competitive pit tussles.