December 10, 2023

The 11 changes that have helped turn the McLaren into an F1 rocketship

McLaren side comparison (Silverstone endplate Inset)

In fact, such was the advantage of the MCL-60 through some of Silverstone’s fastest turns last weekend that Lewis Hamilton labelled it a ‘rocketship’ as he was left powerless to challenge it.

A first package of updates appeared at the Austrian Grand Prix followed by a second step in Britain, which included a new front wing. These combined to help Lando Norris secure a front-row grid slot and take second in the race.

While some rivals have suggested that the McLaren tweaks are just a Red Bull copy, such a simplification of the work put in is unfair. A deep dive into the changes makes it clear just how much effort has gone into finding improvements.

The exclusive side-by-side comparison above shows just how substantial the revisions are, as we look into the small details and go through what has been improved.

1. Changes have been made to the shape and position of the floor fences in order to tailor them to the alterations that have been made downstream.

2. McLaren had already flirted with a sidepod inlet design similar to that used by Red Bull since last season, but its latest update has resulted in a design that’s even more like its rival’s. The upper leading edge of the inlet has been set further back, whilst the lower lip is now positioned higher on the chassis, increasing the size of the undercut beneath.

3. The upper surface of the floor already had a heavily contoured blister to accommodate the lower SIS, whilst also creating the necessary pocket of space for the underfloor too. The blister has been re-profiled as part of the update and accompanied by a smaller blister inboard of it too.

4. The changes made to the forward portion of the sidepod and the inlet have necessitated that the mirror housing and their associated paraphernalia be redesigned, with the upper slat retired and a revised outer stay employed to better suit the aerodynamic profile required downstream.

5. The aerodynamic fairing that surrounds the halo now features a vertical blade as the rear leg transitions into the rear bodywork, whilst a winglet is now mounted on the side of the structure too.

6. The overall change in the shape of the sidepods has resulted in the deletion of the swage line down the side of the bodywork.

7. McLaren is the latest team to adopt a deeper water slide-style gulley on the sidepod’s upper surface, following in the footsteps of Aston Martin, which took a more aggressive approach to the design architecture first wielded by Alpine. The height of the sidepod’s flank has also been increased in order to maximise the internal gulley layout.

8. The upper cooling gill panel has been moved from the traversal position to one more commonly utilised by its rivals, as it wraps around the shoulder of the outstretched engine cover. Different cooling panel configurations will be used by the team depending on the requirements of a given circuit.

9. The shape of the engine cover ‘shelf’ has been optimised to take into account the relocation of the cooling panel, whilst also being mindful of the changes made downstream.

10. One of the big visual changes to the MCL60’s floor is on the floor edge, where the cutout and flap configuration previously employed by the team has been removed.

11. The footprint of the engine cover and rear cooling outlet has been reduced, which also allows the size of the shark fin to be increased, as the bodywork around it tapers down quickly to the rear.

Front wing tweak

McLaren MCL60 new front wing, British GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Norris has been one step ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri with the upgrades so far, and at the British GP that meant he also got to use a revised front wing.

The main feature of the front wing refresh is one we’ve seen elsewhere, as McLaren has joined Mercedes in employing a semi-detached flap layout.

This results in the three upper flaps being disconnected from the endplate junction and a small metal spar used to bridge the gap between each element and the endplate.

It’s also clear that the tips are turned outward, as the designers look to use the surfaces as a means to control the outwash being generated by the wing. This works in tandem with the other control surfaces, such as the now-modified endplate, the diveplane and the slot gap separator brackets.

McLaren MCL60 front wing comparison between Piastri (top) and Norris (bottom)

Photo by: Uncredited

It wasn’t only the outer portion of the wing that’s been changed either though, as we can see when comparing the older specification on Oscar Piastri’s MCL60 with the new design mounted on Lando Norris’ car.

There’s a clear deviation in the design of the non-moveable sections of the wing beside the nosecone, which sees the nose tip set a little further back from the leading edge of the second element and leads to the vanity panel being shaped a little differently to before.

This has a knock-on effect in regard to the position of the flap pivot and its relationship with the associated slot gap separator, which also results in a redesign of the moveable sections of the two upper flaps.

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