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McLaren on the MP4-22's design philosphy 15 Jan 2007

The McLaren MP4-22. 15th January 2007. © McLaren.

As the world awaits its first glimpse of McLaren’s 2007 car - due in Valencia, Spain later today - the team have revealed details of the thinking behind the new machine’s design, promising “advanced engineering concepts” and “novel aerodynamic solutions”.

The MP4-22’s development period commenced before its predecessor, the MP4-21, had even turned a wheel. Initial sketches of aerodynamic concepts and discussions over the design of the clutch and gearbox took place back in December 2005.

Initial ideas for the car were developed with Computer Aided Design (CAD) in mid-March 2006, with the first Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations running later that month. The wind tunnel programme commenced in May. During the design process, each of the car’s 11,000 components were reviewed in meticulous detail in the quest for improved performance, reliability and efficiency.

The MP4-22’s design also incorporates three demanding new pieces of crash protection legislation. A totally new rear crash structure is noticeably wider and blunter than its predecessor. An extra 6mm-thick laminated panel is now also required to be bonded to the side of the driver cell to guard against penetration from another car or object. Frontal protection for the driver has been improved too, with the velocity of impact in the crash test raised from 14 to 15 metres per second, with a softer deceleration both front and rear.

Other regulation changes that have impacted on the MP4-22’s design process include the use of a homologated engine for 2007 and the switch to a single tyre supplier. The construction and profile of the Bridgestone tyres have had an influence on the MP4-22’s chassis dynamics and significantly the aerodynamics. The tyres affect the flow structures downstream of the front wheels, and the team’s engineers have used CFD software - for the simulation of heat and fluid flow - to devise the optimum solution to harness the new rubber.

With such detailed simulation increasingly vital in Formula One racing, the infrastructure, manufacturing capacity and technical tools available to McLaren’s design team have played an important role. The MP4-22’s development involved the generation of generation of 4,500 component and 3,500 tooling drawings,

The car’s aerodynamic development is ongoing, with around a third of the launch car’s surfaces expected to change before the first race in Melbourne in March. This will be followed up with new aero components being brought to the car every three to four weeks throughout the season.

The MP4-22 will make its test debut at Valencia this week, after which development will continue apace on the track and at McLaren's Woking base before its race debut on Sunday, March 18 at the Australian Grand Prix.