Today, McLaren was the first team to officially unveil their 2014 challenger. The MP4-29 has a striking new livery with the conspicuous absence of a title sponsor.
Along with online images from Williams, Sahara Force India, and Lotus, this car shows us that the new machines will be beautiful with the exception of the hideous noses. We’re likely to see many ideas throughout testing and the first races from the teams, but nothing yet suggests there is an elegant solution to the new rules.
Perhaps the most interesting news from today was the yet-to-be-confirmed rumor that Eric Boullier has left his position at Lotus to replace Martin Whitmarsh. McLaren will be an exciting team to watch this year.
McLaren has become the first team to pull the wraps off its 2014 car after an online launch of the new MP4-29 on Friday.
It is the first of the new era of V6 turbo Formula One cars to emerge ahead of pre-season testing next week and features the odd-looking nose that is expected to be a common feature up and down the grid this year. The front end is designed to conform to new safety regulations regarding the height of the front of the nose while also allowing airflow to the floor of the car.
It also features a narrower front wing in line with the 2014 aero regulations and a solo exhaust exiting at the middle of the rear of the car. The cooling requirements for the new V6 turbo engine and energy recovery systems have also required bigger sidepod openings to feed the radiators and intercooler. It is the last McLaren to be powered by Mercedes for the foreseeable future, with Honda set to take over the engine supply from 2015.
The team noted that the car “will potentially undergo more technical change throughout a single season than any other car in McLaren’s long and illustrious history”. Managing director Jonathan Neale added that the team had taken a pragmatic approach to the car design over the winter.
“We’ve never had such significant new regulations before; reacting to them, and managing those changes, while still pushing the performance limits, has been an extremely tough job,” he said. “We’ve been relatively pragmatic about it. We know that the need for consistency initially outweighs the need for performance – the winter tests won’t be about chasing set-up or refining the car; the envelope of performance is likely to be so wide, and so relatively unknown, that the winter – and to some extent the opening races – will be about understanding the operational boundaries of the car as best we can.
“To achieve this, we need a consistent platform – one that responds positively to changes. Moreover, the work of the engineers and designers to understand and interpret trackside data will be more important than before. That’s because this year, more than ever, will come down to a development race: I don’t necessarily think you can expect the car that wins the opening race to be the car that leads the championship charge, something we’ve often seen in the past.
“No, it will be all about a team’s ability to react and respond. We already have an update package that we’re readying for race one, and we’re discovering new things in the ‘tunnel, or in CFD, all the time. Once we start track testing, I think you’ll see an intense throughput of ideas and concepts – that’s the nitty-gritty that will win or lose the world championship.”
The livery has also been altered from that of the last seven seasons due to the loss of title sponsor Vodafone at the end of last year. As expected, McLaren has not yet announced a replacement for Vodafone and the livery is a simple silver and black design, with MP4-29 decals replacing Vodafone’s red logos.
After a season without a victory in 2013, sporting director Sam Michael said McLaren’s main aim is to get back to winning ways as soon as possible and is hoping the team can take advantage of the unpredictability F1′s new regulations will bring.
“We’ve made no secret of our disappointment at how the 2013 season turned out,” Michael said. “The aim now is to get back to winning – that’s what McLaren exists to do – but there’s a certain amount of growth and regrowth that needs to take place before we return to a position where we can challenge for the world championship.
“The good thing is that we’ve acknowledged that, and we’ve actually been working towards that goal for many months now. We have Honda waiting in the wings, we have a number of key technical staff bolstering our existing design and engineering teams, and we are fostering the careers of our young drivers, all of whom have an incredible amount of potential. The future for McLaren is bright, and we’re now putting in place the processes that will move us closer to our goals.
“For 2014, our aim is for continuous development; we’ll be refining and strengthening the car and the organisation throughout the year, so you’ll see a rapid turnover of parts and ideas on the car as we, like every team, wrestle with the many unique challenges of these new regulations. More immediately, our aim is to enjoy a smooth winter at all three tests, hopefully learning a lot as we go, and hopefully developing MP4-29 into something consistent, useable and quick.”