Words: David Cordell, Hybrid Racing
Formula One fans rejoice! The much anticipated 2017 F1 season is right around the corner as testing in Barcelona has already begun. F1 is an immensely technical sport comprised of thousands of engineers and team members working every angle to gain any sort of advantage. Literally any advantage at all. For those who are not that familiar with Formula One and want to get the scoop on why the 2017 season is so special, take a few minutes and read this article from McLaren, it breaks down all of the new FIA rules that will hopefully but probably not increase competition and excitement. All anyone can really hope for is for someone other than Mercedes to win a race or two. Meh.
Moving on to the new, and yes I said the NEW (not just orange) “MCL32″ McLaren-Honda Formula One car… you know, the one that will bring honor back to the historic partnership. (third times a charm hehe) As I write this article things haven’t been going so well for them during the pre-season testing. Engine problems have popped up once again leaving Honda to scramble for answers. Out of the first 3 days of testing the McLaren Honda team has managed just 70 paced laps while other top-tier teams are running 300+. Take it slow boys, get all of the bugs worked out now because no one likes to see Fernando Alonso sad. :-/
No one ever said that building a Formula One car was easy and if you think that it’s like an Indy Car, you’d be wrong on many levels, but I digress.
Formula One cars are like spaceships… for the race track. Innovation in powertrain and material sciences are born here and the winningest technology will trickle down to your modern day supercar and then eventually into your everyday car. The Ferrari The Ferrari, McLaren P1 & the Honda /Acura NSX are prime examples of cars using technology born from F1′s technical regulations. Back in the 1980′s Honda was using VTEC in their F1 engines and it only took a few years for that technology to become available in their road cars. Ah VTEC… a product of Formula One. Before I become “that guy” and start preaching about the glory days of McLaren-Honda, and although it would likely be a more entertaining article, let’s take a look at the “MCL32.” (Pour one for Ron Dennis)
MCL32 Technical specs at a glance:
Weight: 728kg (1,605 lbs)
ICE (internal combustion engine): 1.6L 90* V6 Turbo Direct Injected (Honda RA617H)
Max Engine Speed: 15,000 RPM
ERS (energy recovery system): Crankshaft coupled electrical MGU-K, Turbocharger coupled electrical MGU-H & Lithium Ion Batteries
Combined Power Output: 750kw (1,005 hp) *Estimated
Driver 1: 2 Time World Champion – Fernando Alonso #14
Driver 2: Rookie (1st season as starting driver in F1) – Stoffel Vandoorne #2
Tires tires tires. Larger front and rear tires for 2017… Fronts measure 305mm and the rears have grown to 405mm. That’s over 4.5 feet of rubber trying to get all of the grips. o_O Since these cars will be much faster through corners, brake cooling has been increased to compensate for the added work. Notice the larger ducts bolted to the inside of the front hubs. Japanese brake manufacturer, Akebono, supplies the Carbon Ceramic brakes for McLaren and Enkei produces the insane 13×12 F & 13×15 R wheels. Pirelli is the only tire manufacturer allowed to supply and develop tires for F1. (at least for the next few seasons)
F1 cars are fast, yes. They corner like crazy, yes. They also stop like nothing else on the road as the brakes are utter pieces of engineering porn. Let’s take a quick look.
In all fairness, these images of Akebono brakes come from the (2014) MP4-30 which is a few years old, however, you get the idea of what’s going on inside of the wheels.
This carbon fiber encapsulated pod from another planet is just as functional as it is beautiful. Not only do these things stop an F1 car from 200 mph + to nothing in seconds they also recover energy and send it back to the power unit which is used to accelerate the car, they do that for hours at a time depending on the race length and, oh yea, fit inside of a 13 inch rim. Pretty insane.
With the shrouds pulled off, you can see the intricate cooling veins necessary to keep these things from exploding or catching fire, although some still do. The amount of work and detail on these parts are nothing short of amazing.
Back to the point. Lower and wider rear wing to help with rear end downforce, it also slants backward a bit compared to the 2016 car. The new cars are a bit heavier as well when compared to last season so they also get a bump in onboard fuel capacity.
The side bargeboards are also wider and extend out much further than last season’s car as well. Another specific advantage that McLaren-Honda has this season with the rule change is that it allowed Honda, who have developed an entirely new engine compared to the last two seasons, the chance to sit the engine lower into the chassis. The previous engine system was touted by some as being too heavy and too large… hindering McLaren’s ability to produce an areo package that worked and preventing Honda from creating the power and reliability required to win championships.
The MCL32 also wears a now-common shark fin which is used to increase stability by smoothing out the air as it travels over the car. If you follow cars in the IMSA or WEC, you’ll find these similar to what the P1 cars have now. They’re kinda funny looking on an F1 car if you ask me. I get why they are there… but don’t expect me to like it.
The new technical regulations have been out for a while now and it is about time for everyone to show their hand although no one is going to come out and give you ALL the specs so expect some of this stuff to change over the course of the season as the F.I.A. will allow it.
I’ll be honest, I love McLaren… they are, for me, what a supercar manufacturer should be. The P1, 570S, & 675LT have redefined how things should be done. They are beautiful, rich in racing history, finely crafted and fantastically precise machines that take advantage of the best technology. I love Honda. Honda, to me, is one of the best engine companies in the world. The efficient Japanese culture breeds innovation. I love what the Honda-Mclaren team stands for. I love their history. I hope that Fernando and Stoffel have a great season. With that said, I’ll be watching from the stands (or my couch) when Lewis Hamilton steps to the podium to win his 4th World Championship title. #teamlh
Watch the 2017 season opener at Melbourne, Australia March 26th. Set your DVR since the first few races come on at really weird times in the USA.
www.mclaren.com/formula1 / www.racecar-engineering.com /www.nbcsports.com/motors / en.hondaracingf1.com/