Tech Analysis: McLaren MP4-29
Unlike all of the recent surprise pre-release images, the scheduled MP4-29 online launch took place at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking this afternoon. Without further ado, let’s dive into the technical side of McLaren’s 2014 title contender…
McLaren, like most of the teams this season, have gone down the same design avenue as the already-seen Force India and Williams cars. As explained in both analysis’ here on Richland F1, the “finger” is the best aerodynamic solution to tackle the problem of starving airflow beneath the chassis.
The design on the MP4-29, however, is elegant and maximise the width of the crash structure that makes up the nose assembly. The whole nose appears to be made of one single structure, rather than a thin crash structure within a thicker wedged vanity panel, which could prove to be a popular solution for teams this season.
This single-structure approach allows the extreme shaping of the front wing pylons to arch round and down towards the wing, creating a large opening for airflow to pass around the thin section of the nose into the area beneath the chassis.
The slot in the tip of the nose allows a small amount of air to reach either the driver or the electronic systems housed with the monocoque.
The front wing itself is a new offering from McLaren, although it is an evolution of its 2013 predecessor. Featuring 6 elements at its outboard areas, the planes no longer attach directly to the endplate and instead arch downwards at 90 degrees to meet the footplate. McLaren have been caught out in the development of this area over the past few years and this looks like a good step in the right direction.
The cascade arrangement has also been slightly modified. The main winglet, attached to the endplate, is composed of two elements – the same as last year. However, the planes now curl up at their edges, forming two sharp, miniature endplates. These are similar to that seen on the 2013 Ferrari, used to aim airflow around the front tyre and reduce the wake formed behind.
A secondary cascade is branched off of the main winglet and appears to be virtually identical to that seen on the MP4-28.
Despite the front wing being a full 150mm narrower this season, the wing does not appear to have the aggressive outward curvature that we expected, particularly the endplate fence that holds the main cascade winglet into place. Perhaps this will change when the car hits the track next week.
McLaren have also mounted turning vanes beneath the nose cone, directly behind the extended pylons that reach downstream towards the centre of the car. The combination of the two long surface areas creates a venturi tunnel ahead of the front section of the floor, driving airflow into this region of the car which should produce more rear downforce.
Like the Williams FW36 images, camera pods have been placed ahead of the lower wishbones to aid aerodynamic efficiency.
On the subject of suspension, the team have reverted back to a push-rod layout after an unsuccessful year with the pull-rod. The pull-rod layout is much tougher to set up than a push-rod, as all the mechanical components are mainly accessed beneath the chassis. The small aerodynamic benefit of a pull-rod layout has decreased slightly due to the lower front bulkhead requirements, so it would be surprising to see any team continue to use pull-rod front suspension.
Aside from the larger air intakes, there are some interesting details on the MP4-29 sidepods. The main body of the sidepod appears to sweep inwards towards the rear, tapering nicely at the coke-bottle section.
However, additional duct work stems at the rear of the ‘pod and travels horizontally back towards the rear wing. These two ducts (one each side of the car) act as an exhaust for the entire power unit assembly, extracting all of the heat via two channels rather than one central one that we are used to seeing.
The two ducts on each side of the car converge into one at the rear of the car. At the centre of the two lies the central exhaust exit, which I will move onto later.
As with all the cars this season, there will be plenty of cooling gills and louvres along the top of the sidepods due to the additional heat created by the ERS. The MP4-29 is no different, displaying a set of louvres either side of the cockpit area.
What is not shown on the launch car is the additional detail that the 360 degree virtual model reveals on the McLaren website.
The model reveals that the car will indeed feature a set of vortex generators on top of the sidepods, a Red Bull-style canard that attaches to the side of the cockpit and a strake along the side of the monocoque. These all aid how the airflow travels down the sidepods and towards the floor, producing a series of vortices that will interact with the boundary layer formed along the profile of the sidepod and hopefully decrease this layer. This reduces drag and can potentially allow for a little more downforce to be produced at the rear of the car.
Rear wing & Exhaust
The rear wing on the launch version of the MP4-29 is exactly the same as the 2013 specification, so don’t be fooled by its profile. The 2014 wing will be a little shallower and feature multiple slots along the trailing edge of the endplates, as the virtual model on the McLaren website implies.
Interestingly, the team have utilised a central pylon to support the rear wing rather than attaching the endplates to the top of the diffuser. Structurally this is easier to implement as the central pylon provides a much better support-to-weight ratio than extending and thickening the endplates.
They have also designed the pylon around the central exhaust exit, creating a small hole for it to pass through. The hole created also acts as McLaren’s version of the Y100 (Monkey Seat) winglet, although its profile does not appear to be aerodynamically useful in terms of downforce production.
The rumour mill has suggested that McLaren will have an innovative rear suspension for 2014, although this was not evident at today’s launch. The innovation is revolved around replicating the functions of the now banned beam wing, rather than mechanical performance. More on this when (and if) it comes.
Images courtesy of McLaren Mercedes