McLaren have revealed the car with which Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will defend his drivers’ crown in 2009. The wraps came off the all-new MP4-24 at the team’s UK base in Woking on Friday.
McLaren hope the car, which will be raced by the unchanged driver line-up of Hamilton and Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen, can take them to their first constructors’ title since 1998, after finishing second to Ferrari last season.
“Well, obviously, I haven’t driven it yet,” said Hamilton at the launch, “but there’s an old saying in motor racing that says a beautiful car often turns out to be a quick car. And all I can say is that I hope that’s right, because I reckon the MP4-24 looks simply sensational. Really beautiful, in fact.”
The design of the Mercedes-powered machine incorporates the significant 2009 rule changes – including slick tyres, reduced aerodynamics and the introduction of KERS – and it will run for the first time in testing at Portugal’s Algarve Motor Park next week.
The 2008 aerodynamic regulations were framed by the FIA and the Overtaking Working Group (OWG – headed by McLaren’s engineering director Paddy Lowe, Ferrari’s Rory Byrne and Renault’s Pat Symonds) which met throughout 2007 to address the issues affecting the difficulties of overtaking in Formula One.
“This year’s changes to the bodywork rules are probably the biggest in Formula One’s history; and such a comprehensive change is both daunting and thrilling in equal measure,” commented Lowe. “While the new regulations mean it’s difficult to predict which teams will be out at the front, we feel confident that we’ve approached the task wisely and produced a car of which everybody here can feel very proud.”
The OWG’s influence can be most clearly seen around the MP4-24’s front wing, now wider, and the rear wing – now more compact. Other factors affecting the car’s aerodynamics include the banning of ancillary appendages, the addition of driver-adjustable front-wing flaps and a heavily revised rear diffuser.
“The huge rule changes are really exciting for a driver,” added Hamilton. “The winter months are already quite busy because you’re very heavily involved in developing the new car, but this year it will be even more intense. And the whole experience will also feel quite fresh because so much is new. I hope the racing is as close and as exciting as has been predicted because that’s always more fun for a driver and fantastic for Formula One’s fans.”
The MP4-24’s KERS device has been developed in collaboration with McLaren and Mercedes- Benz HighPerformanceEngines, which has been developing and refining the system for almost two years. The device enables the car to recover energy under braking, store the energy for a lap and release it when the driver presses a button on the steering wheel.
With a fully optimised KERS device’s output capped at 400kJ (discharging 80bhp boost for 6.7s per lap), the development team’s primary focus has already shifted to further improving the unit’s integration within the chassis in order to minimise performance loss elsewhere within the package. An optimised KERS package can be expected to deliver a 0.3-0.5s gain per lap.
With in-season track testing now prohibited, the MP4-24 will undergo an intensive winter programme prior to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 29, starting at Portimao next week and followed by two more group tests at Jerez in Spain and another in Barcelona.
“The regulatory changes have only increased our ambition to remain at the competitive vanguard,” commented McLaren boss Ron Dennis. “And, for this year, our target is clear: to win both world championships if possible. Lofty aims, I grant you, but we exist to win.”