The Team McLaren Mercedes 2006 Formula One car, the MP4-21, made its track debut today at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. The MP4-21 is fundamentally a new car, however the basic concept is an evolution of the 2005 challenger, the MP4-20, which won ten out of the season’s 19 Grands Prix.
Test driver, Pedro de la Rosa, was at the wheel of the MP4-21 as it left the garage for the first time at 09:15 local time to complete its installation lap. Juan Pablo Montoya will take over driving duties for tomorrow, Tuesday 24th, and Wednesday 25th, with Kimi Raikkonen having his debut runs on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th January. Pedro and fellow test driver Gary Paffett will test alongside the team’s race drivers in an interim MP4-20, continuing the Michelin tyre development programme, until chassis two of the new car is scheduled to hit the test track in Valencia sometime during the week commencing 13th February.
“I am really pleased to have been at the wheel of MP4-21 today” said Pedro. “The car feels good initially, but it is of course too early to really understand it’s potential and we need to put a lot more laps on it. We have around 20 days of on track running before the cars leave for Bahrain on Friday 3rd March. As today is the initial shakedown, our focus will be to familiarise ourselves with the MP4-21 and the Mercedes-Benz FO 108S V8 engine, and to run the various systems checks that are required with a new car.”
“Everyone at Team McLaren Mercedes is looking forward to the challenges ahead this season, and we took a major step in our preparations for 2006 today by starting to test the MP4-21 at Barcelona,” commented Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes. “The anticipation within the team as to how competitive the new car will be is great, particularly given the pace of our 2005 racer and the level of work that has been put into the MP4-21 project. However these are early days, we have a comprehensive programme to complete with the car over the next few weeks. This will mean hard and dedicated work from the whole team supported by our Technology Partners and Official Suppliers, including an aggressive schedule of upgrades to come on line before Bahrain.”
The revised engine regulations for 2006, with the change from V10 to V8, has dominated the overall design process. Research into a direction for the MP4-21 began in August 2004, when Team McLaren Mercedes started to consider the new V8, 2.4 litre power plant, which as in 2005 has to last for two Grands Prix weekend. Designed and built from scratch, the Mercedes-Benz FO 108S V8, which ran for the first time at Silverstone on 13th September 2005 following its dyno debut on 15th June of the same year, also has to conform to the below restrictions:
– V-angle of the cylinders set a 90 degrees
– Use of a maximum of two inlet and exhaust valves each, previously restrictions have only covered the number of cylinders and a limit of five valves
– Minimum engine weight of 95 kilograms
– Maximum cylinder bore of 98 millimetres
– The position of the engine’s centre of gravity
– Precisely defined alloys for the manufacturing of engine components
“The challenge with a brand new Formula One car is the same every year, but nevertheless there were even more intensive tasks to be dealt with this year than ever before,” said Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “The regulations require new V8 engines with a 2.4-litre capacity, and in addition to this the need to compensate for the restriction of the aerodynamics, this took a lot of time and effort. The power reduction by more than 150 bhp put additional strain on the aerodynamic concept. The aim was to further reduce drag and maintain or even increase downforce – which with the given limitations reminded the technicians that it is possible to achieve the impossible. As a result of this complex task it was important to invest sufficient time before the final definitions were made. We are very satisfied that the new MP4-21 has had a successful debut today. Its basic data promises that we have got a good basis. Our new engine covered about 6500 kilometres on track and more than double this amount on the dynos in Brixworth and Stuttgart. Now it is our task to prepare the new car for Bahrain in six more tests with more than 20 testing days when most of the time two MP4-21s will be run following Barcelona. The aim is to continue on last year’s level of performance.”
“The development of the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine, and its ancillary areas, has seen McLaren Racing provide a strong supporting role to Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines, further integrating the facilities in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart,” added Martin Whitmarsh.
Aerodynamics also received early attention, with the development programme starting as the 2005 season was getting underway in April of that year and the aero specification set in late October / early November. A key area of focus was the opportunity to exploit the smaller power unit by repackaging the rear of the car. In addition, the regulation change that stipulates the forward deflectors ahead of the reference plane must be raised by 50mm proved to be significant to the aerodynamics of MP4-21 and required innovative solutions from the Team McLaren Mercedes design team.
April 2005 also saw initial transmission and drive train work begin and the following month, the first spec of MP4-21 was issued by the design team. By September, production had begun, with chassis manufacturing starting one month later.
Other key regulation changes include the increase in crash test loads to the rear structure by 50 per cent, leading to the development of complex composite structures to absorb the required energy. Late December saw the MP4-21 chassis complete its first FIA crash test.
On the sporting side, there is a new qualifying format and the return to tyre changes in pit stops. The latter has been a focus of the extensive winter testing schedule throughout December and January to date, with the team working alongside Michelin to develop the new compounds and constructions for 2006. By the end of the final test in December 2005, Team McLaren Mercedes had covered over 6,000kms with the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine.
“Visually MP4-21 will look very similar to MP4-20,” said Jonathan Neale, Managing Director of McLaren Racing. “In addition to the tighter packaging to the rear of the car, people will notice differences to the nose area, which has been lowered, and the aero body work, such as the barge boards and deflectors. The reduction in required cooling for the V8 engine has allowed us to in turn reduce the size of air intakes, this includes apertures in the main chassis, which is beneficial to the overall aerodynamic package. There are a significant number of changes in the cars structure, geometry and aerodynamics as a consequence of 16 months of R&D innovation. At McLaren Racing, we have a strong team of 135 engineers, and all have made a vital contribution. Now the new car has been released, our primary short term focus will switch to durability testing, proving the software, the systems and the 11,500 car components, 90% of which have changed from MP4-20. In addition we have a series of engine and chassis performance packages to bring to the car for the initial races. There is a lot of work to be done.”
Team McLaren Mercedes