Wednesday, 1 February 2012

McLaren Isn't As Ugly As Caterham. Thank Goodness!

On the left is a problem with the new rules. On the right is a simple solution to it.
We now know what two of this year's Formula 1 cars will look like going into the first testing session at Jerez on 9th February. Both of these cars are British (well, Caterham is a British name) but only one of them doesn't make me want to vomit. On the left we have the Caterham F1 CT01 (they were green Lotus last year) and the McLaren MP4-27, which gets around a new rule that demands lower nose cones without asking for a different-sized monocoque, which has caused the "stepped nose" on the Caterham and maybe the Ferrari F12 (or whatever alphabet soup they call it), if rumours are accurate, to appear and damage our eyes. Of course, we'll know which one is the faster nose when we see which one the Red Bull RB8 has on it. Pictures and specs inside.

First, the Caterham. Despite costing millions of pounds, they've somehow made it look cheap. The basic shapes throughout the car arguably make sure of that, but like a fat anchovy on a mild pizza, the whole thing is dominated by that nose. WorldCarFans call it "radically-stepped", while some are banding the word "platypus" about (because it looks like it's made of spare parts?) and many will make do with a simple and direct "fuck-ugly". Well, not during race programs. The problem is that the extreme point of the nose (the very front, if you will) has to be about 7cm lower for crash test regulations, although what brought that idea on I have no idea, so because Caterham want a flat nose for aerodynamic smoothness, they've given it one... which then meets the chassis in a blunt and very abrupt manner.

Team boss Mike Gascoyne has responded to criticisms as follows: "As we're the first car out it is obviously stirring up a lot of debate, but because of the 2012 regulations I think you'll probably be seeing this type of nose on most of the cars this year. Our challenge is that you always want to get the chassis as high as possible to allow clean air flow to the underside of the car, and what you see on the CT01 is our solution to that." Interesting solution, but McLaren's solution is substantially more elegant. The extreme point of the nose is indeed slightly lower, as you'll see below, but the nose then glides smoothly upwards to meet the chassis in much the same way last year's car did, because they've managed to make the front of the chassis lower. The result is a still very flat-looking nose with a slightly steeper angle than last year's car as a result. It looks very smooth though. I like smooth racing cars.

Click to enlarge
Also present on the MP4-27 is a mullet, a development of the little black bits that appeared last year, which apparently could be snapped off if the driver wanted less rear aero during the race. The spine of the car is also pointed slightly outwards, a reversal of last year's going by the image on the left. The rest is basically as it was before, but McLaren were keen to stress that while "This is a beautiful car, unlike many you'll see" [Jenson Button], this is not the exact car you'll see on the grid in Australia late next month. The first testing session is next Thursday, and I assume they still have many things to try out that they can only be sure of by actually lapping the track with them, as opposed to the extensive simulator work all teams must do [no in-season testing]. As long as you keep the smooth nose, that's just fine.

More pictures below, none of which are mine, I feel I should point out. There's a lot of anti-copyright stuff in the news these days......

Caterham CT01
McLaren MP4-27
The L-shaped sidepods of 2011 have been substituted for more conventional flat-topped ones
Jenson Button is now the number one driver in the McLaren team, after being the first McLaren driver to beat Lewis Hamilton
Last year's car on the right, this year's opposite. You can see the exhausts now, as blown diffusers are banned
A full winter news summary is pending, and of course I will be all over the 2012 Formula 1 season when it starts, so stay tuned!

EDIT(19:55) - The tech specs have appeared on Speedhunters, and are as follows:


Monocoque -  McLaren-moulded carbonfibre composite incorporating front and side impact structures
Front suspension - Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pushrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement
Rear suspension - Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pullrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement
Electronics - McLaren Electronic Systems. Including chassis control, engine control, data acquisition, dashboard, alternator, sensors, data analysis and telemetry.
Bodywork - Carbon-fibre composite. Separate engine cover, sidepods and floor. Structural nose with integral front wing Driver-operated drag reduction system
Radio - Kenwood
Race wheels - Enkei
Brake - callipers Akebono, master cylinders Akebono
Batteries - GS Yuasa Corporation
Steering - McLaren power-assisted
Instruments - McLaren Electronic Systems
Paint solutions - AkzoNobel Car Refinishes using Sikkens products

Type - Mercedes-Benz FO 108Z
Capacity - 2.4 litres
Cylinders - 8
Maximum RPM - 18,000
Bank Angle - 90°
Piston Bore - maximum 98mm
Number of Valves - 32
Fuel - ExxonMobil High Performance Unleaded (5.75% bio fuel)
Spark Plugs - NGK racing spark plugs specially designed for Formula 1
Lubricants - Mobil 1
Weight - 95kg (minimum FIA regulation weight)

KERS Hybrid
Type - Mercedes-Benz
e-Motor - Engine-mounted electrical motor/generator
ESS - Integrated energy storage cells and power electronics
Power - 60 kW

Gearbox - McLaren-moulded carbon-fibre composite Integral rear impact structure
Gears - Seven forward and one reverse
Gear Selection - McLaren seamless shift, hand-operated
Clutch - Carbon/carbon, hand-operated
Lubricants - Mobil 1

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