The McLaren MP4-25 is, in many ways, quite a departure from the MP4-24 that graced the race tracks during the 2009 campaign. Although the old machine performed okay on occasion, last year was hardly a highlight in the team’s illustrious history. Although unlikely to be a clean-slate design, the 25 does have some interesting new features, and will be piloted by the sport’s two most recent world champions, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. 2010 on paper, should be a very good year for the Woking-based team, and providing the relationship between the drivers can remain intact, the car looks good to power the duo to the top.
An interesting difference between the launch of the 25 and most others before it, is that the wraps were taken off not in McLaren’s impressive Technical Centre in Surrey, but instead at the UK headquarters of its primary sponsor, Vodafone. Although not a million miles from Woking, Newbury seemed a bit of an anti-climax, and one can read into this that the team didn’t want to be surrounded by their history and instead wanted the 2010 challenger to be born away from all this – a fresh new beginning, perhaps.
Either way, the choice of venue for the launch is irrelevant, and what really matters is the car itself. Like the Ferrari before it, the MP4-25 sports a longer wheelbase, a revised nose and front wing, tighter sidepods and an impressive engine cover that makes full use of the popular shark-fin design, first introduced by Adrian Newey to the Red Bull Racing RB4.
The tiny sidepods indicate McLaren have again got the cooling sorted, and many times in the recent past we have seen the car wait on the grid or in a gravel trap for extended periods of time with the engine still running. Normally, a Formula One car – which is designed to be moving and sucking up air – would overheat in a matter of seconds of being stationary, but for some reason, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz have this issue sorted.
The engine cover is perhaps the most pronounced difference between this and McLaren’s previous cars. The team did once try the shark-fin cover, running a version of it around Hockenheim in 2008, but alas it did not make it to the final race car. However, for 2010 the team have adopted the device with gusto and combined with the additional length of the car, the shark-fin looks impressively huge, swooping over the rear of the car and heading towards the rear wing.
The front nose is a little higher than we saw on the MP4-24, and the whole section appears much tighter and less bulbous. There isn’t much in the way of a Newey-dip as we have seen from other teams, and looking at the side view of the car, the exhausts appear to be more on the side of the engine cover, as opposed to on the top as placed on the 25’s predecessors. Thinking out aloud for a moment, this may help with getting heat into the rear tyres, although most drivers who complain of cold rubber are usually having trouble with the front pair, a Formula One car being rear-wheel driven.
The car’s livery remains pretty much the same as before, utilising the silver/chrome finish that makes McLarens so distinctive among their rivals. The splashes of red indicating the ongoing relationship with Vodafone and the black separation line which was incorporated into the team’s logo many years ago when West took over from Marlboro as title sponsors before leaving the sport when tobacco advertising was banned.
All in all, the MP4-25 looks good, has the sport’s two most celebrated drivers piloting it this year and should – in theory – be a challenger for the titles.
McLaren’s car designation system refers to the team’s original names, which depending on which story you believe, either refers to McLaren Project 4, or Marlboro Project 4. These initials are followed by an incremental numbering system that for 2010, has reached 25. Hence, MP4-25.