TECH ANALYSIS: Is it a case of evolution or revolution for McLaren’s new MCL60?
McLaren launched the MCL60 on Monday – but is their new car a complete revamp of last year’s MCL36 or simply a more cautious update? F1 technical expert Mark Hughes has a look at the differences...
McLaren’s new MCL60 is essentially a further evolution of a car which, under its MCL36 guise, was quite heavily developed through last season. The team cautions that there is more to come in terms of significant changes but that the early-season car will look much like that which launched at the McLaren Technology Centre today.
It is clear from all the 2023 cars so far launched that the major preoccupation of the teams is in enhancing the ground-effect underfloor performance. There is far more lap time to be found from this than the outer bodywork and wings.
Any changes to the external geometry of the cars is invariably just a function of attempts at working the underfloor better. So, we see that McLaren have created significant space at the lower front of the sidepod (probably by a rearrangement of the radiator layout) to give more space in which to fit the vaned inlets for the underfloor tunnels.
Last year, the evolution of the McLaren, with its bodywork updates at the French and Singapore Grands Prix, was in paring away the front of the sidepods to create more area to change the geometry of the floor inlets.
This process has been continued for the MCL60 and it can be seen that the inlet vanes are in fact totally re-fashioned.
The dimensional regulations permit quite a height range for where the inlet can be placed and in paring away the bottom corner of the sidepod it seems as if McLaren may have been able to change the angle of the inlet. The aim is to give the elusive combination of good downforce with consistent balance through the corner – a challenge which has proved very difficult under the ground effect regulations for many teams, not least McLaren.
This development direction is consistent with Lando Norris’s feedback (and that of the out-going Daniel Ricciardo) about the limitations of previous cars. “I’ve been pushing what I needed from my side,” Norris said at the launch.
“I spent a bit of time going through things with the engineers to give them an understanding of what we struggle with and some traits we have not changed too much over the last few years. There's been a bit more push on that this year.
“Maybe this year's car can suit me more – but it’s not just that; it should also be a faster car. It's something Daniel and I both complained of a lot. If we can take a step forward on that [the drivers] can get more from the car.”
The previous car’s front pullrod and rear pushrod suspension has been retained. The changes to the shaping of the upper surface of the sidepods is probably in response to the revised radiator layouts beneath, which in turn will have been to create the space at the lower front of the pods for the enhanced floor inlets.
McLaren are targeting the top four in the championship but caution that they may not immediately be at that level as the next planned upgrade evolution will remain in the pipeline until a few races into the season.