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Formula 1

Gary Anderson explains McLaren’s huge Spanish GP upgrade

by Gary Anderson
5 min read

McLaren arrived at Barcelona with its first major Formula 1 upgrade package of the season, with a long list of developments that impacted effectively every aerodynamic surface on the car.

The package appears to have worked broadly in line with expectations, although with the majority of teams bringing at least some updates what really matters is how does your improvement stand up relative to the rest?

Given there are so many changes, we can work through the car from front to back.


Mclaren Fw Flap Miami Bcn

For the front wing, McLaren brought a revised trailing edge trim line on the two rear flaps.

This version will be more consistent load wise across the wing span and could simply be to produce that extra bit of front-end downforce needed for Barcelona.


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Miami Grand Prix Practice Day Miami, Usa

After its brake cooling problems in Bahrain pre-season, McLaren finally introduced a revised carbon brake disc cover and modified brake discs.

The Race delved into this particular upgrade in depth having caught sight of it on Thursday at Barcelona.

McLaren also reprofiled the inlet duct. Going rearwards, that profile is a little shorter but fairs in the pullrod that little bit more neatly. This should give better-quality airflow around the inside of the front wheel, especially with steering lock.


Mclaren Mcl36 Susp Faring

The front suspension fairings on the wishbone legs have also had some detail changes.

This is similar to what we see in the brake duct/pullrod fairing and will improve the quality of the airflow going around the inside of the front wheel.


The internal fences on the leading edge of the floor have been repositioned and extended forward. This alters the amount of airflow that will go into each compartment of the underfloor.

The outer one is fairly similar to McLaren’s previous version but the others are now generating more outwash and directing more airflow out of the sides to increase the downforce generated by the front corner of the floor.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Practice Day Barcelona, Spain

The middle section of the sidepod profile is also more bulbous. This will reduce the amount of airflow that spills over the top of the sidepod and goes down into the Coke bottle area.

It also overhangs to contain the flow that is going around the sidepod into that Coke bottle area. This improves the flow through the Coke bottle and over the diffuser top surface.


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Practice Day Barcelona, Spain

We can also see the change to the airflow exits on the outer edge of the floor.

Scavenging as much of the flow out of this area reduces the workload the diffuser has to do with the rest of the flow that goes into the underfloor inlet.

This means that the flow that is pulled from the front of the floor and ends up exiting through the diffuser has to travel faster to get there. This will generate lower pressures under the car and, in turn, more downforce.

The inner fairing on the rear brakes was also modified.


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Practice Day Barcelona, Spain

As part of the package McLaren also had a new rear wing assembly but this is more in line with the downforce levels that Barcelona requires. It consisted of a new main plane, flap and endplates – so a completely package.


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Sprint Day Imola, Italy

McLaren also ran with these cockpit vanes removed.

These were taken off during the Miami weekend, so it’s not a new development.

As they turn the airflow inwards, which probably helps with rear wing performance, they may affect the cockpit airflow, which in turn can create turbulence on the drivers helmet.

McLaren also ran a packer in the centre of the diffuser on Friday only, which was a test part to get information for future development direction.

All in, it’s all a very comprehensive list of components that will have had a major impact on how much money is left in the piggy bank for future developments.

Fortunately, according to McLaren technical director James Key, the parts all worked as predicted and, with the exception of the diffuser test that was never going to be used beyond Friday, it was all carried into qualifying and the race.

“It’s correlated to everything that we expected,” said Key when asked by The Race to run through the details of the upgrade.

“So everything our CFD and windtunnel told us has come out on track, which is obviously always good to see.

“The origins [of the different parts of the upgrade] are multiple, because the floor is a very long lead time item. So that picked up from where we were in race one and took the next logical steps.

“Obviously, there’s been a few cues from competitors, as everyone has at this time of year got to see each other’s cars.

“So I’m not going to pretend that there’s not a couple of aspects of the floor which are slightly influenced by what we saw there and we investigated to see if we could adapt such a thing to our car, and that was the case.

“But most of it is pretty original and really the logical next step, so that floor was started before the first race.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Practice Day Barcelona, Spain

“The sidepods are a bit of a trend, which we’re beginning to see now and we can see how that works. So that was done some time back but we had to optimise it a bit for our car, because it’s quite different in some areas – edge of floor, the front of sidepod etc. But again, that worked out, OK.

“And the rest are really just logical things. So with the downforce the floor found and the high downforce rear wing, you’ve got to balance that. Several teams have brought a higher front wing capacity here as well.

“So it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s the first logical step of what we knew from before, but very much step one at this stage.”

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