McLaren’s bold decisions with its 2022 F1 car

you’re watching the aramco 2022 f1 car reveal series mclaren’s striking new mercedes-powered mcl36 is a real statement of intent from a team that’s working its way back towards the front in f1 not only does it have a sleek new look with a classic mclaren papaya blended with a little more blue but as a result of some bold technical decisions it is the first 2022 car we’ve seen so far that has switched to pull rod front suspension and it’s gone the other way at the rear switching to the push rod design we’ll come back to the reasons for that later the front and rear suspension are just two examples of areas where mclaren has pushed the boundaries with its new car as it hopes to build on its climb back into f1’s top four after too many years in the wilderness the car was launched online but the race has also had the chance to take a look at it in person and talk with both the drivers and senior team personnel including technical director james key with the help of our technical expert gary anderson and illustrator rosario juliana let’s take a look at the latest creation from one of f1’s most famous teams let’s get straight to the front suspension innovation although innovation isn’t exactly the right word as the pull rod configuration is nothing new but the last time we saw it in f1 was when ferrari ran it back in 2015 before returning to the pushrod configuration mclaren’s reasoning for the change is that it better suits the aerodynamic demands of the car in terms of the front suspension’s impact on the airflow coming through the front wing area to the leading edge of the floor which is critical on these new cars the change to the regulations that requires a slightly lower chassis at the front wheel center line combined with the 18-inch wheel rims has opened the door for teams to exploit the pull rod and while it may primarily be for aerodynamic reasons it also avoids what gary anderson a great proponent of how important it is to get the suspension right cause stupidly shallow angles on the pull rod that would be needed under the old rules the added benefit of this is that the inboard suspension components can be mounted much lower giving a lower center of gravity as key said of the change if we’re the only car that’s done it we’ve either got it really really right or and he didn’t finish the thought presumably because the risk of getting it really really wrong is not worth contemplating especially given mclaren made the change for sound reasons so why has mclaren gone in the opposite direction at the rear switching from the pull rod configuration to the push rod the pull rod rear suspension has been the standard in f1 for some years although key suggested that the wheelbase restrictions that reduce the length of the gearbox and therefore favor the push rod was part of the equation but gary anderson who worked with kia jordan is puzzled by the decision to go to push rods at the rear he points to the disadvantage that it raises the center of gravity given the impacts on the upper part of the gearbox but let’s turn our attention now from the mechanical side of the car to the aerodynamics the front wing design is similar to what we’ve seen from aston martin the main plane is primarily a flow conditioner with a second element mounted to the underside of the nose the central section and the first element don’t look quite as high as on the launch specification aston martin however the under surface of the second element sweeps into the upper surface of the nose to create a similar effect the inner section of the third and fourth elements also attached to the nose as required which leaves the middle section of the fourth flap adjustable to alter the car’s balance towards the front of the floor we have a turning vane that is more like one of the original barge boards that appeared in f1 in 1993 but given it is there to separate the tyre wake from the underfloor as effectively as possible it’s perhaps surprising that it isn’t longer the side pods are dramatically different to the aston martin mclaren has opted to shrink wrap the body work aggressively and curtail the side pods as quickly as possible minimising the cross-sectional area at the earliest points it means that instead of the leading edge undercut continuing along the car allowing the airflow to be pulled through that undercut from the rear of the car it pulls the airflow down in and around the side pod area that covers the radiators for both aston martin and mclaren it’s about finding the best solution to the same challenge the need to maximize the airflow over the diffuser upper surface this also means a very different approach in terms of the radiator exits while aston martin had plenty of side pod top louvres mclaren has the exits at the rear of the bodywork this means it has a longer wider engine cover the compromise for having a much smaller surface area for the side pods detail at the rear of the car is less clear in terms of the diffuser while the sides of the floor are likely to change by the time the car hits the track for testing or perhaps even before that if it’s shaken down on a filming day as scheduled although mclaren has made significant progress in recent years last year’s car did have its problems the mclaren mcl35m was strong in high-speed corners good when it came to straight-line braking and aerodynamically efficient this allowed it to perform well at tracks such as the red bull ring silverstone sochi and of course monza but it was less effective in slower turns and could be tricky in corner entries with significant overlap between breaking and turning something daniel ricardo found particularly challenging mclaren attempted to improve its slow corner weakness for 2021 with limited success although the car was still good enough to finish on the podium at monaco courtesy of lando norris but it struggled at many tracks with slower and longer corners notably zanvort and istanbul park the objective with the newly launched mclaren mcl 36 is to have a more consistent performance profile while a dramatically different regulations mean there’s no fundamental reason why characteristics should carry over and f1 car is simply the product of a team’s knowledge understanding of the underlying science and working practices so if it hasn’t got to the bottom of its struggles it’s possible they could 6:21 repeat mclaren has put a huge amount of effort into understanding those problems a process assisted by daniel ricardo struggles with what he described as a peculiar car last year indeed according to racing director andrea stella ricardo’s struggles actually helped the team to build a deeper understanding of its weaknesses mclaren has made great strides in recent years with its aerodynamic understanding under the technical leadership of james key on top of that it has the chance to package the mercedes power unit properly with an all-new car this year after the compromises of its carryover 2021 machine the 2022 car is the first brand new design undertaken on keys watch and should demonstrate how much ground mclaren has made up on f1’s leading teams mclaren’s victory at monza last year ended the longest win drought in the team’s history which dated back to jensen button’s victory in the 2012 season-ending brazilian grand prix but while it has made big progress since the nadir of the honda years with an upturn in form at the start of 2019 there’s still some way to go its decline began with a winless season in 2013 and continued despite the high hopes of its works honda deal which lasted from 2015 to 2017 but the belief that a switch to renault engines would solve all mclaren’s ills in 2018 proved to be hubristic instead it was a rude awakening that showed mclaren had big problems to solve on the technical side and had lost ground to f1’s top teams after making leadership changes that kicked in for 2019 with key coming in as technical director and andrea seidel as team principal a series of significant infrastructure projects were given the green light this included a state-of-the-art wind tunnel a new driver in loop simulator and also changes to speed up the parts production process the wind tunnel in particular is a long lead time project one that was delayed by the covid 19 pandemic but it will be complete in time to be used for design and development work on the 2024 car that’s the year mclaren believes it will have everything in place and no longer be at a disadvantage to f1’s biggest teams the drivers are part of the strengths that mclaren has in place with lando norris recently agreeing a new contract that will keep him at the team until at least the end of 2025. as for teammate ricardo 2022 is an important season for him after last year’s struggles although he signed on a three-year contract so should still be around next year seidel has also confirmed that all of the senior leadership team recently agreed new long-term deals mclaren has made enormous progress over the past four years while 2022 is probably a little too early to expect it to recapture world championship winning form it needs that trend to continue with the new mclaren mercedes mcl 36 you