McLaren have today become the first of the top teams to unveil the car that they hope will challenge for the 2012 drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
The MP4-27 was launched at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking this morning by drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. According to the team, this new car is ‘a natural evolution’ of last season’s car, which won six races.
The most evident visual differences from last year’s model are earmarked by the team as ‘more tightly waisted rear bodywork, developed to improve flow to the rear of the car, and a revised cooling system, which re-directs the gearbox oil-cooler’. The U-shaped sidepods that graced the MP4-26 have also been redesigned.
Speaking at the event, both drivers are confident that this car can compete at the front of the grid.
“With the regulations remaining relatively stable, we've really been able to focus on the detail with this year's car,” explained Button. “I still think we had a very fast package last year – it was very strong in certain areas – and our race pace was almost always fantastic, but we're hoping for a further step forwards in 2012. With Mercedes-Benz, I think we also had the best overall engine and KERS Hybrid package in the pitlane.
“We were also able to continuously develop throughout the year to match Red Bull – and that shows that we have the knowledge, effort and resources to sustain our efforts across the course of a whole season, which can be crucial.
“I know that the whole team is extremely proud of the MP4-27. It may look like a direct evolution of last year's car, but we've analysed every area of performance over the winter and the whole car has benefited from lots of fresh thinking and new ideas in every area. I'm really looking forward to getting behind the wheel in Spain next week.
“I know that everyone will be watching us very closely to see what progress we make during the pre-season tests, but I genuinely believe we have every reason to feel optimistic about the progress we've made and our competitiveness this year.”
Hamilton said that he had an excellent break in recent weeks, and shares his team-mate’s optimism about the MP4-27.
“The winter has been a great opportunity to recharge – I got away into the mountains, spent a lot of time hiking and running, improving my fitness and starting to prepare for the new year,” said the 27-year-old.
“It's always great to get away from everything; change the scenery. And what's great about Formula 1 is that you start each season with the baseline completely reset – everybody starts again from zero – and that always makes me so hungry.
“I've been keenly following the development of MP4-27 over the winter and I've been really encouraged by the results and the data that the engineers have been showing me. I think we already had a very strong base to build upon: Jenson and I won six races with MP4-26 last year and I think we've been able to retain all the strengths and the reliability of that design while also incorporating lots of improvements and new ideas into the new car.
“Of course, the biggest changes for 2012 are the modifications to the exhaust regulations – that will reduce the downforce and grip that we had last year, but it just puts the emphasis on the designers to try and claw some of that back in other areas.
“I get the feeling the MP4-27 is going to feel very new and exciting when we get to drive it for the first time.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh sent out a warning to rivals that this new car will be tough to beat, especially in the hands of his two drivers.
“The 2012 season will be an important one for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: having finished second in the constructors' championship for the past two seasons, we're determined to mount a sustained, hard challenge for both world titles,” he said.
“Our engineering team continues to develop and grow: while the key names who head the department are well known – Tim Goss, Paddy Lowe and Neil Oatley – it's the strength in depth within the department that continually impresses. I'm extremely proud of our efforts to invest in and recruit young graduate engineers and to develop and school them in the ways of Formula 1.
“We have a fantastically committed team of individuals, and MP4-27 is the fruit of their labours – it's a beautiful car, and one we feel is the perfect platform from which to launch our assault on the world championship. While there are clear visual changes to this year's car, there's greater change beneath the skin, with lots of fresh thinking applied to every major system. The car is pleasingly complete.
“I don't think we want for anything from our drivers, either: in Jenson and Lewis, I believe we have the very best line-up in Formula 1 – the perfect blend of experience, speed and aggression. They complement each other perfectly.
“For 2012, we are well aware that Red Bull remains a very powerful and capable operation, and that both Ferrari and Mercedes AMG are ramping up their operational capacity. We have no room to be complacent – what you see today only scratches the surface of what we're planning to deliver to the track both from an engineering and operational point of view throughout 2012.
“I'm pleased and confident that we've left no stone unturned in our quest for performance. Now, our focus invariably turns to the track as we evaluate MP4-27 ahead of the start of the 2012 season in Melbourne on March 18. These will be a fascinating three weeks.”