After Ferrari and Toyota, McLaren Mercedes is the third team to reveal their 2009 Formula1 contender , the MP4-24. With an unprecedented series of rule changes introduced ahead of the 2009 season, the new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 represents a significant departure from its world championship-winning predecessor.Incorporating new bodywork regulations and the much-heralded return of slick tyres, the team’s new challenger not only looks radical but also incorporates a host of new innovative features under the skin, such as a sophisticated kinetic energy recovery system (KERS). While still retaining the distinctive family look established with both the MP4-22 and MP4-23, this year’s car is visually very different from its predecessors as a result of two main factors:
This year’s aerodynamic regulations were framed by the FIA and the Overtaking Working Group (helmed by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes engineering director Paddy Lowe, Ferrari’s Rory Byrne and Renault’s Pat Symonds) which met throughout 2007 in order to address the issues affecting passing in Formula 1.
The OWG’s influence can be most clearly seen around the front wing, which has been widened to increase front-end load when following another car, and the rear wing – which is now more compact to offer less interference to chasing vehicles. Other factors affecting aerodynamics include the banning of ancillary appendages, the addition of driver-adjustable front-wing flaps and a heavily revised diffuser.
The MP4-24’s KERS device has been developed in collaboration with McLaren and Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, which has been developing and refining the system for almost two years. With a fully optimised KERS device’s output capped at 60kW/400kJ (discharging an additional 80bhp for 6.66s per lap), the development team’s primary focus has already shifted to further improving the unit’s integration within the chassis in order to minimise performance loss elsewhere within the package.
An optimised KERS package can be expected to deliver a 0.4-0.6s gain per lap.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis said the new regulations have forced the team to work evern harder to get the car ready.
“Of course it is the same for every team so we can’t say the challenges are any less demanding for the competitors,” said Dennis. “Extensive rule changes require extensive amount of work – these are the biggest rules changes we have seen in 15 years.
“That requires the technologists in our organisation, they are not just engineers but scientist with high qualifications, to go back to a plain piece of paper and conceptualising what the fundamental requirement are for the regulations.
“It is there you can get it wrong because if you get it wrong no amount of development can sort it out. What you see in the MP4-24 is a car correctly conceptualised.
“At the same time you are trying to make a good looking car, that is a value we put high, if it looks good it goes good, so what you see is a tremendous outcome from a lot of people, it is a credit from not just the technologists but the other people, this is a fully running car that can run on a circuit tomorrow.
“But this is a second car, the first is already at Portugal, so we feel we are in a good position to attack the time up to the first grand prix. It will be a critical time because it will set the baseline for the rest of the season.”
Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug said the company had never had to work so hard.
“I think it was one of the most challenging winters,” said Haug. “We have a frozen engine but the rpm changed to 18,000 and KERS is brand new. This is a lot of work that was put in the right direction.
“The guys were working very, very hard, flat out, and the amount of work in Brixworth and Stuttgart we have never had before, and the same at Woking – it is a dramatic rule change and a complete new set of rules and I think these guys created a fantastic car. Hopefully we will see the first good results tomorrow.”
The car sports the number one following Lewis Hamilton’s championship-winning campaign last year.
“This is the first time I’ve seen it fully put together and it looks beautiful,” said Hamilton. “The team manages to always put together a stunning car and it’s great to see the final outcome of the work that has gone on.”
Teammate Heikki Kovalainen added: “I echo Lewis’ thought. It looks great. Whatever the regulation changes are the team have managed to make a beautiful car.”
The new car will be shaken down by test driver Pedro de la Rosa tomorrow.
“The first day of a brand new car is a very interesting day for all of us and an exciting day,” said the Spaniard. “As a I said at last year’s launch I am honoured the team gave me the chance and responsibility considering the amount of work.
“We have to do the first laps and start working from there. It is the usual work of the shakedown day – it is going to be a very hectic test schedule before Melbourne and I hope with my experience I can help the team.
“It is the ninth package I can drive so I can say I am experienced. Hopefully this experience is worth it.”
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