McLaren's MP4-28 title challenger revealed - Team VVV

News McLaren’s MP4-28 title challenger revealed


James Allen


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Whilst Lotus may have beat everyone else to it when it comes to unveiling the car it'll be fielding this year, it's the McLaren launch of the MP4-28 that most of the press were looking forward to.

After all, McLaren is one of the top three teams in the sport right now and the car's predecessor was one of the fastest on the grid for at least most of the 2012 season, so the first impressions of a potential Drivers' and Constructors' Championship winner are always highly anticipated.

And it certainly seems that the new McLaren F1 car has what it takes to be good – if it's been given the Gary Anderson Seal of Approval, it certainly has the makings of a very quick single-seater!

Whilst a quick glance doesn't really suggest much has changed when compared with the MP4-27 – team boss Martin Whitmarsh himself described the car as an "evolution" –  take a closer look at all the little details, and you'll soon notice that actually, there have been plenty of modifications in order to make the most out of the last year with the current regulations in place.

Perhaps the most noteworthy addition is the adoption of pull-rod suspension, rather than the push-rod that McLaren (and, indeed, every team bar Ferrari) used last year. With benefits to the centre of gravity and the airflow around the front of the car, it certainly looks that Pat Fry's prediction that the top-tier teams would see the light and go with a pull-rod setup was a correct one.

Another big change has been made to the bodywork towards the rear of the car. Not only are the sidepods considerably larger than they were on the MP4-27, but the rear is far narrower on the MP4-28, again in a bid to improve airflow in an age where nearly every trick and loophole in the regulations has been sussed out.

Also, McLaren has persisted with its use of small-diameter exhaust exit pipes, which the team reckons improves the airflow around the rear of the car.

The last major spot-the-difference detail is a much higher nose, which – yes, you guessed it! – has been designed with optimised aerodynamics in mind.

Of course, we were all expecting McLaren to improve every conceievable aspect of the car, so the modicum of alterations isn't at all surprising.

It's the off-track areas where the team let itself down – with the pace they had, McLaren should have easily beaten Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship, and perhaps even had enough to overhaul Red Bull. It was all those pit stops and mechanical failures that cost them.

Towards the end of the season, McLaren's pit crews emerged as some of the fastest in the entire pit-lane, so it's perhaps safe to assume they'll be as slick this year as they were in the closing races of 2012. 

What we won't know until raceday, though, is whether the gremlins that bit the team hard on many an occasion last year have been exterminated. However, Jenson Button certainly felt confident that there won't be at least as many mechanical failures as there were last year.

When asked by the press on the issue, Button stated that the team shan't "be making the same mistake twice". and seemed to confidently assure the world's media outlets who were attending the unveiling ceremony that the issues the team had last year "hopefully won't happen again".

Impressions on the MP4-28

Out of all the teams on the grid this year, McLaren perhaps the most pressured to win at least one title in 2013. After all, the team easily had a car that could tussle with the front runners on a consistent basis last year, and undoubtedly should have finished higher than third in the Constructors' title.

Indeed, Lewis Hamilton's many DNFs last year cost him – if he were to finish the race in the same position he retired from – somewhere between 100 and 150 championship points, which would have not only comfortably got the Constructors' in the bag for McLaren, but would have been enough to Lewis Hamilton the World Champion of 2013.

Factor in that this year is also McLaren's 50th anniversary, as well as the fact Whitmarsh announced the team had taken an "aggressive approach" with the development of the MP4-28, and you get the impression that, if the Woking-based outfit were to bring home only one championship trophy this decade, it would have to be in 2013.

Thankfully, for McLaren's sake at least, all the pieces of the puzzle suggest that 2013 will be a much more fortunate and rewarding one for the team. Not only are we assured that the mechanical gremlins have been at least mostly exterminated, but McLaren has historically been the team that can update its cars faster than anyone else.

And, of course, you've got the experience of Jenson Button and the untapped potential of Sergio Perez to call upon. Which, when you also consider that both are quick drivers who also have a knack for tyre management – more crucial than ever, given Pirelli insist the 2013 tyres will be more prone to degredation than 2012's – means the car can be set-up for two similar-ish driving styles, rather than adapt the same chassis for the needs of two different drivers (you don't need to be that observant an F1 fan to have noticed that Hamilton and Button were nigh-on polar opposites of each other on the track).

Granted, we won't know until next week's Jerez pre-season test session at the very earliest if the MP4-28 has what it takes to bring a few bits of silverware back to the McLaren Technology Centre's trophy cabinet. But you'd perhaps be a fool to expect nothing less from what is, statistically, the most frequent F1 GP winners of all time.

Long story short, unless the Red Bull RB9 pulls out all of the stops, we'll be genuinely surprised if Button and Perez aren't in contention on a regular basis this year for race wins and – perhaps more crucial – the eventual Drivers' Championship crown…

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