McLaren MP4-29 Unveiling

Sleek, silver and shocking, the new McLaren MP4-29 has certainly divided opinion. The car features the most radical nose design yet – the ‘anteater’ extension which was noticeable on the Williams is supported by two vertical spars on either side. It is certainly a peculiar design which will take some getting used to. Meanwhile, the main talking point of the day was Martin Whitmarsh’s absence from the launch, with McLaren Managing Director, Jonathan Neale, taking the reigns. With Eric Boullier turning his back on Lotus this morning, it seems as though he could be on his way to McLaren. Coincidences are decidedly rare in Formula One…

The MP4-29 features one of the most radical nose designs we are likely to see
(c) McLaren Mercedes

 Just Pointing It Out…

Undoubtedly, the most eye-catching feature of the MP4-29 is the nose structure. The 2014 regulations demand that chassis height is lowered and consequently, the nose height is lowered. As a result, the ‘anteater’ nose seems to be the chosen route for most teams, yet McLaren’s version is highly defined, featuring two additional vertical spars which should aid airflow underneath the car. The design looks remarkably similar to the controversial design used by Williams in 2004 on the FW26 – With a nose shape dubbed as “The Walrus” nose. The aim was to create more front downforce, yet the team enjoyed a greater boost when they finally ditched the extreme design in favour of a more conventional approach. McLaren will hope that they experience a better fate.
However, in the event of an unfortunate surprise in Jerez, McLaren should not suffer the same issues they faced last season, as a front wing design can easily be altered by developments. Last season’s predicaments were caused by a fundamental issue within the chassis and front aero deficiencies, which were difficult to correct. McLaren will have inevitably ensured that they do not fall into the same situation this season.
Meanwhile, as oppose to the Williams development, the MP4-29 does feature a rear pillar to support the rear wing, as a replacement to the now outlawed lower beam wing. Apart from supporting the structural integrity of the rear wing, it is unlikely to provide any aerodynamic benefits despite team’s looking to replace the downforce lost by the banned coanda exhaust.
Aside from the technical aspect of the car, McLaren’s lack of a title sponsor is evident on their new car, as the spaces formally reserved for Vodafone have been replaced by generic MP4-29 place-holders – just in-case we forget the name of McLaren’s 2014 challenger. With Sony throwing their name into the hat for 2015, they might claim the currently vacant sponsors positions on the car. Until then, McLaren fans will have to get used to the sleek and sophisticated, all chrome finish. Its a bit of a Silver Arrow, although it would be entirely wrong to call it that.

Where’s Whitmarsh?

The unveiling of the new car was not even the biggest talking point of the day at MTC, as Martin Whitmarsh’s absence almost confirmed the speculation surrounding his position over the past few weeks. His departure now seems imminent – Paddy Lowe failed to attend last year’s launch event before making the move to Brackley.
To further add to the mystery, Eric Boullier confirmed his departure from Lotus this morning, with Gerard Lopez taking the reigns with immediate effect. Coincidence – I think not. Following Ron Dennis’ return to the team’s hierarchy as CEO, Whitmarsh’s standing within the team has been devolved; leaving just the Team Principal position to be filled should Whitmarsh leave Woking. Boullier is a ready made replacement for Whitmarsh, especially following his impressive credentials displayed in last season’s campaign, full of political and sporting issues. He certainly has the strength, authority and mindset to manage a prestigious team such as McLaren.

So, the MP4-29 is a car which divides opinion. Personally, after reacting negatively to the aggressive front wing design initially, the front package of the car has grown on me throughout the day, (just as the Williams ‘walrus’ nose design did in 2004.) A positive of the differing wind-tunnel results is that the cars look unique from each other, adding additional intrigue to the technical battle. I expect to see more interesting designs in the coming days.
      

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