Successful debut for new McLaren 23 Jan 2006
McLarens 2006 challenger, the MP4-21, made its first appearance in Barcelona on Monday morning. Test driver Pedro de la Rosa was behind the wheel of the orange-liveried machine as it completed its first lap of the Circuit de Catalunya.
Although McLaren have already tested their 2006 V8 in an interim car, this week marks the first time the engine has been run in combination with the new chassis, which, while 90 percent new in terms of components, is an evolution of its MP4-20 predecessor.
"I am really pleased to have been at the wheel of MP4-21 today" said de la Rosa. "The car feels good initially, but it is of course too early to really understand it's potential and we need to put a lot more laps on it. We have around 20 days of on track running before the cars leave for Bahrain on Friday 3rd March.
As today is the initial shakedown, our focus will be to familiarise ourselves with the MP4-21 and the Mercedes-Benz FO 108S V8 engine, and to run the various systems checks that are required with a new car."
As with all 2006 cars, the overall design process of the new McLaren has been dominated by the revised engine regulations for the coming season, with the change from V10s to V8s. Research into a direction for the MP4-21 began in August 2004, when the team started to consider the new Mercedes engine, which ran for the first time on track at Silverstone last September.
In terms of aerodynamics, the smaller power unit has allowed the McLaren designers to repackage the rear of the car. In addition, the regulation change that requires the front barge boards to be raised 50mm has had a significant influence on the shape of the front of car, which features a distinctive, narrow nose cone.
"In addition to the tighter packaging to the rear of the car, people will notice differences to the nose area, which has been lowered, and the aero body work, such as the barge boards and deflectors, confirmed Jonathan Neale, Managing Director of McLaren Racing.
The reduction in required cooling for the V8 engine has allowed us to in turn reduce the size of air intakes, this includes apertures in the main chassis, which is beneficial to the overall aerodynamic package. There are a significant number of changes in the cars structure, geometry and aerodynamics as a consequence of 16 months of R&D innovation.
McLaren have an intensive five-day programme planned at Barcelona. Juan Pablo Montoya will take over MP4-21 driving duties from de la Rosa on Tuesday and Wednesday, while Kimi Raikkonen will have his debut runs in the new car on Thursday and Friday.
At the same time, de la Rosa and fellow test driver Gary Paffett will test alongside the team's race drivers in an interim MP4-20, continuing with Michelin tyre development work, until chassis two of the new car hits the test track in Valencia sometime during the week commencing February 13.
Details of the MP4-21s official launch and its race livery have yet to be confirmed. BMW Sauber are due to test alongside McLaren on Monday. All other teams, with the exception of Williams and MF1, join the session on Tuesday.