The most hotly anticipated car launch of this winter took place today, as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button’s 2015 office was unveiled. The MP4-30 is to be the first Honda powered McLaren since the iconic partnership ended at the close of the 1992 season and as such, this car in particular has captured the fans’ interest. Throughout the launch event, #MakeHistory has been a constant and it seems that regardless of whether it is a successful machine or not, the MP4-30 is not going to be forgotten in a hurry. Still, a handful of victories would certainly help to cement this status…
As I hasten to note with all car launches, it is important to avoid being lured into any predictions as to the success of the car – in many cases, the car launched at these pre-season events is the bare-bones of the technical programme. Many gadgets and gizmo’s will be added throughout testing, meaning that when March arrives and F1 heads down-under, the cars will look notably different.
One aspect which can be assessed on launch day is the aesthetics of the car and in the case of the MP4-30, the early aesthetic appraisal is very good. The livery of the MP4-30 has been a key area of pre-launch discussions; whether the MP4-30 would adorn a classic McLaren-Honda red and white design, or whether the McLaren silver, (which has become a cornerstone of McLaren cars of late) would be retained. Ultimately, the Woking squad opted for the latter and while children of the 80’s and early 90’s will probably disagree with me, I am pleased with the outcome. While a classic McLaren Honda livery would be refreshing to see return, the silver has been complemented by a vivid red streak running along the edges of the nose and along the engine cover of the car. It means that the MP4-30 looks somewhat like an MP4-19 or MP4-20 – although this time, the red is far more poignant. Regardless, this livery takes me back to my early childhood memories, watching David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya take victories in the silver-arrow of the day.
The fact that this is a Honda car has far more significant implications than just allowing fans to be transported back into the past. McLaren will now once again become a ‘manufacturer’ team. I am of the group who believe that a team will have to be a manufacturer in order to win World Championship titles in the modern era. With Honda being exclusive to McLaren at least for the 2015 campaign, they have the opportunity to take advantage of this elevated status. Meanwhile, the Honda powertrain certainly has promise, adopting the Mercedes configuration by splitting the turbo and air compressor to all but eliminate turbo-lag and allow the unit to run cooler.
The aerodynamic advantages of this seem to have been utilised by McLaren, as the packaging at the rear-end of the car is particularly tight. Theoretically, this should give McLaren an aerodynamic advantage. Assuming of course, that the Honda powertrain can run cool enough to handle the cosy nature of the gearbox, exhaust and turbo arrangement. We all know how engine cooling issues scuppered the progress of Red Bull during last year’s pre-season.
Ultimately, this is an exciting time to be a McLaren fan. Pre-season testing, particularly once the Barcelona test arrives, will add clues to the puzzle as to whether it will be a triumphant return to F1 for Honda and to McLaren for Mr.Alonso.
Image Credit: "McLarenF1"