McLaren MP4-28 Launch Review

With car launches nearly every day this week, we finally feel the return of F1 races. People are saying ‘It’s exactly the same as last year!’ everytime a new car reveals, even though they all know that 2013 is not a year for revolution. In McLaren’s launch, Jenson said that ‘under the skin, it’s so different’ – well we don’t really know before the Jerez test, but through bare eyes, we can see several detail changes on the new seasons car.

First of all, if you haven’t watched their launch video, you should really do it now! They have a brilliant built-up to the revealing of MP4-28:

With little change in regulations, one thing most team would do is trying to steal some good ideas from other cars last season. In terms of this, McLaren has somehow adopted Ferrari’s pull rod suspension and Red Bull’s rear suspension merging with driveshaft and track rod.

Covered Step Nose

The most obvious change is the covering of step nose with modesty panel. Step nose appeared in F1 since the 2012 season, when FIA modified the height limitation for nose cone and monocoque due to safety reasons. The 2012 regulation has a 550mm limitation for nose cone and 625mm for monocoque. As it’s beneficial to get more air flow underneath the car to feed into the diffuser, most teams are pushing to upper limit for both nose cone and monocoque. And in order to make up for the margin between them, step nose came out as the solution. The step doesn’t look good and there could be slight aero deficiency as the surface is less streamline like. So in 2013, regulation allows using of a modesty panel to cover the nose. It’s basically a thin carbon fibre panel that doesn’t have any structure function (it simply breaks down during front impact). However, the penalty of using this panel would be additonal weight at the front of the car. It’s the team’s choice to decide whether to use it or not considering its aero and aesthetic benefit and weight penalty.

McLaren MP4-28 Nose Cone

MP4-28 Nose cone with modesty panel

Original Step Nose without Modesty Panel

MP4-28 Original step nose without the cover

Front Pull-rod Suspension

This was what Ferrari used last year (this year as well). Pull-suspension is basically an upside-down version of push-rod suspension (well not exactly, but you may understand it this way..). With the chassis and nose cone lifted up for maximum aero benefit, for stability, it’s good to lower down centre of gravity with a pull-rod suspension as all those springs and dampers are mounted at the bottom side of the nose. Actually McLaren must have made a whole change in the front part design due to the change of suspension.

McLaren MP4-28 Pull-rod suspension

McLaren MP4-28 Front Pull-rod Suspension

Rear Suspension Integration with Driveshaft

This was a Red Bull idea implemented since the development of RB5!  It basically utilise one of the wishbone to cover up the rear driveshaft. The covering of this part would make it more aerodynamically desirable. It smooths out the air at the rear of the car, therefore good for the efficiency of rear diffuser. From the picture below, you can see a very thick wide structure of the wishbone, which houses the whole driveshaft.

McLaren MP4-28 Rear Suspension

McLaren MP4-28 Rear Suspension

*Pictures from AMuS


SingaporeGP Tech Updates

After going through two low downforce cicuits Monza and Spa, F1 came to Singapore, a narrow street circuit requiring high downforce. Correspondingly, most teams brought new setup for this track, while some of them gives a speed boost, others don’t seem to benefit anything. Successful examples are Red bull’s new break ducts and Mercedes Coanda effect exhausts. However Ferrari, using Alonso’s word, had a development error again, while Lotus expierenced a lack of grip throughout the weekend.


They’ve finally joined the group of ‘Coanda’ Exhaust after it was introduced by McLaren early season and used by Ferrari, Sauber, etc. The new exhaust utilise sidepod bulges to improve airflow passing through the sides of the car to the floor. Coanda effect basically describe the tendency of fluid attaching to the nearby surface. The bulge would help bending the flow at exhaust area down to the diffuser, therefore seal and speed up the airflow to create a low pressure area underneath the car. This effect increases downforce at the rear and gives advantage at low speed corners – that’s why it’s preferred in Singapore.

Mercedes Coanda Exhaust

Red Bull

The narrow street circuit indicates huge pressure on the brakes and cooling system. Red Bull came with new brake discs and ducts made of CER, a new material whose wear resistance feature is about 4 times better than the old CCR.

Source: F1 Official Site

Red Bull Singapore Front Brake Duct Detail

They’ve also modified their front wing with slots in the front of wheel area to reduce wake behind and seperate flaps to decrease drag induced by the high downforce setup.

Red Bull Singapore Front WIng


Williams was in quite good pace in Singapore actually with Maldonaldo hitting 2nd in qualifying, although hydraulic problem for Maldonaldo and KERS problem for Senna leave both drivers nothing in this race. They’ve introduced a much more rounded nosecone with centre bulge in this race, quite similar to the Lotus one.

Source: F1 Technical

Williams Singapore Nosecone


They brought two sets of wings into Singapore with the new one having more louvres on the endplates and deeper cuts on the top flap. There’s also 8 gills added to the side of the diffuser, wishing to generate more downforce. However, testing result on Friday was rather frustrating so that the team decided to use the oler version for Singapore race. This happened quite a few time throughout the season, which makes Alonso quite worried – Ferrari focused on understanding ‘development errors’

Source: F1 Official Site

Ferrari Singapore Rear Wing – Not Used


They’ve modified their rear wing for Singapore and here is a nice flow viz picture of it.

McLaren Singapore Rear WIng Flow VIz

Monza Low Downforce Setup

There is no circuit in F1 that looks simpler than Monza, a typical circuit dominated by long straights. In response to this, downforce is not that favourable here, on the contrary, low downforce setup aiming to reduce drag is the key to win the race.

Front Wing

Front wing is not often changed significantly from race to race as it is the part that determines downstream flow, therefore affecting the design of all following parts. However, for Monza, most teams have adjust their front wing by removing cascades, lower down AoA or reducing chord length.

McLaren has removed all the outer cascades and replaced their 2-section upper flap with one single upper flap.


McLaren Front Wing Change from Spa to Monza

Source: Sutton Image

McLaren Front Wing in Monza

Another noticeable change on front wing is from Ferrari, who has removed all the small upper cascades and made several changes to the flaps and endplates profile.


Ferrari Front Wing Comparison from Spa to Monza

Rear Wing

The rear wing design is closely related to exhaust/cooling, sidepod and rear diffuser. Teams have different adjustments based on their cars. Major methods to reduce downforce/drag in Monza includes slimming rear wings, introducing V-shape profile and use gurney flap on diffusers.

With Massa hitting 3rd in qualifying and Alonso finishing on podium from 10th start, Ferrari proved their speed in Monza. They modified the beam wing with a V-cut profile and slimmed outer span, fit gurneys along the trailing edge of the diffuser, and quite uniquely, added flaps above and below the diffuser. The V-cut supplies the car with enough downforce at corners with low downforce setup for straights. Use of gurneys and additional flaps help regulating the flow, correspondingly reducing drag.

farrari monza rear design
Source: ScarbsF1

Ferrari Rear Design for Monza

Similar to Ferrari, Red Bull also used a V-shaped beam wing, in combination with a rear wing of very small AoA. They’re among the teams that suffer the most from the ban of exhaust blown diffuser this year and quite obviously still haven’t found a ideal design for their underbody rear part. In Monza, they’ve also added an additional tier to the diffuser gurneys, though that didn’t seem to give them clear benefit.

Red Bull V-shaped Beam Wing

Source: Sutton Image

Additional Tier on RB8 Diffuser Gurney

As the low downforce rear wing has clearly given Button huge advantage in Spa, McLaren is quite happy using this setup for both cars in Monza with a few modifications to further reduce drag. Instead of slimming the wing as other teams, McLaren cleverly introduced a curved profile at the tip of their beam wing to smooth air flow.

Source: ScarbsF1

McLaren Rear Design for Monza – Note Curved Tips on Beam Wing

Lotus has drawn wide attention because of their so-called DDRS system – It’s still quite confusing how people call this device though. Anyway we’re not seeing it until Singapore since Monza is not a preferable circuit for this system. In Monza, Lotus runs on the shortest chord rear wing, which makes it look quite tiny from behind.

Source: F1 Technical

Lotus Rear Design for Monza

Check this post from ScrabsF1 for more detailed analysis of rear end design based on each car relating exhaust/cooling/sidepod to rear wing assembly.

McLaren Spa Updates

With a dominant win from Jenson Button in Spa, McLaren has demonstrated their aerodynamic excellence after two successional win. It’s shame that Lewis was crashed out at the beginning of race, leaving us curious about how those two differently set-up cars would actually do in the race. Instead of seeing huge impact from DDRS, what drew attention is actually McLaren’s rear wing adjustment and sidepod airflow conditioner, while their DDRS remains a mystery.

High Downforce vs Low Downforce – Hamilton’s Deleted Tweets

The hottest topic outside the track is definitely Hamilton’s tweets during the weekend. Three of them get delated in two days, among those ghost tweets, the most famous one is the telemetry chart of the two McLaren cars.

Source: F1Technical

McLaren Overlaid Telemetry Chart

It looks a bit completed as there are lots of information merged into one single chart. However, telemetry chart is simple to read when you know which property each line represents. As a common approach of F1 data collection and analysis, a telemetry chart in fact can’t leak out too much serious information. Here is an example of a telemetry chart from 2010, which as an coincidence, is from Lewis Hamilton again. From the top to the bottom, properties plotted on the y-axis are speed, engine revolutions/gear, throttle/brake usage, lateral/longitudinal G force.

Telemetry chart in Bahrain 2010

As we can guess in Lewis’ leaking out chart, the most fluctuated lines represent his speed and Jenson’s. It’s obvious that on straights, Lewis’ car accelerates slower and has lower top speed compared to Jenson’s. Basically Jenson’s car has a low downforce configuration while Lewis get a high downforce one. The picture below combines Lewis’ and Jenson’s car during qualifying – with lower angle of attack, Jenson’s car has reduced downforce and drag, which gives him huge advantage on straights.

Source: Sutton Image

Comparison between Jenson’s and Lewis’ Car During Qualifying

However, this doesn’t mean lower downforce is always better on high speed circuits like Spa – downforce at severe corners should always be considered; weather condition has vast impact as well. Nevertheless, McLaren has clearly found the best compromise this weekend for Jenson.

McLaren New Sidepod Airflow Conditioner

The most evident change on MP4-27 in Spa is these airflow conditioners added on top of the sidepods.

McLaren Sidepod Airflow Conditioner

Now the airflow conditioner is connected to the cockpit and runs all the way over the sidepod. It’s expected to further regulating flow around the sidepod and towards the exhaust channel. In Hungry before the summer break, McLaren was using 3 fins on top of the sidepod as vortex generator to improve airflow.

McLaren Sidepod in Hungry

These fins would help smoothing the air by generating controlled vortex flow:

Effect of Vortex Generator

Although vortex generator is a good idea, McLaren seems to find those L-shaped covers over the sidepod working better in controlling the air.

Curiosities – Flexible Front Wing? DDRS?

An interesting picture of McLaren front wing in Spa indicates that it’s flattened during the race:

McLaren Flattened Front Wing

There was suspicion from ScarbsF1 that McLaren use flexible front wing to achieve better aero balance last year in Valencia – McLaren European GP Wing Movement. However although the suspicion was broadly argued, this picture still arise doubts on McLaren tricking on their front wing. Theoretically flexible front wing uses a joint rather than a rigid structure that allows the wing to tilt slightly backwards at high speed. The reduction of angle of attack would reduce front downforce/drag so that it corresponds to the reduction of rear downforce when DRS is activated. Because of the increasing limitation on rear part design, McLaren has actually focused a lot on the front part this season, as reflected in their lifted nosecone earlier this season.

Source: F1Technical

McLaren Nosecone Update

Although the so-called McLaren DDRS was buzzing before the race, there was no clear technical sources leaking out regarding this part. Some says there’re strange bumps on the rear endplates, which could mount in tubes like the Mercedes DDRS. However we still need to wait for more information to make judgement.

Bumps in McLaren Endplate

Besides McLaren, most teams have noticeable updates in Spa. There were more information of Lotus DDRS leaking out though it was not used in this race and is expected to be used in Japan Grand Prix. Also closed cockpit looks favourable in the future considering the huge crash in this race. These topics are hopefully covered in my future posts.