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How McLaren has moved to address its F1 2023 drag woes

McLaren's recent upgrade push has propelled it towards the front of the Formula 1 grid, but that's not to say it has cured all of its early season problems.

McLaren MCL60 rear wing comparison Monza/Zandvoort

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

In fact, one of the chief challenges that remains for the squad is in improving the aero-efficiency of its MCL60, which has manifested itself in the car being too draggy for some circuits.

In that respect, last weekend's Italian Grand Prix offered a very different challenge, as the Monza track is all about straightline speed.

And, with an apparent disadvantage in terms of straightline speed when compared with competitors at previous venues like Spa, it was clear that the team needed to bring another suite of parts if it was to have any chance of fighting for points.

Most of McLaren's rivals focused their efforts on a bespoke rear wing design for the unique challenges of Monza.

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And while McLaren also introduced a track-specific design of its own, it also used its time during free practice to collect side-by-side data on another lower downforce variant that might be useful later in the season.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, with aero paint
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, with aero paint

The team would go on to race the design seen on Oscar Piastri's car during FP1 (left), which featured rear wing elements that take up much less space within the allowable box region.

However, it's also notable how much more loaded the beam wing configuration is on Piastri's car when compared with the arrangement on Norris' MCL60 (right).

Offset with a lower downforce beam wing configuration, Norris' car was fitted with a higher downforce rear wing configuration which featured a spoon-shaped mainplane and an upper flap trimmed on the trailing edge to match that shape.

McLaren paired this with an upper corner infill panel for the endplate. This was a new direction for the Woking-based team, but one employed by Alpine in 2022 and more extensively by Mercedes since then.

McLaren MCL60 front brake inlet comparison

McLaren MCL60 front brake inlet comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

At the front of the car, a subtle change was made to the brake duct inlet, as its shape was altered in the upper half to improve the external flow over and around the suspension elements and the remainder of the brake duct fence (left, new).

This change also alters the wake turbulence created by the front tyre and is thus an important measure when considering the flow downstream too.

However, the balancing act that must be struck when designing these components is still providing sufficient brake cooling performance. This alone will require the older configuration to be used at some of the remaining races, even though it is likely the design raced in Monza will not be its only outing either.

Ferrari SF-23 rear wing

Ferrari SF-23 rear wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari decided to revisit things at the Italian GP, as it ran the same rear wing design that it used in 2022.

The wing featured a very shallow mainplane, without the usual spoon-shaped profile. It was housed upon a twin pillar arrangement that intersects the element, rather than utilising the swan neck-style design used in its single pillar layout.

To help reduce drag further, the team opted to remove the Gurney flap from the trailing edge of the upper flap that it ran in 2022.

However, the Gurney on the trailing edge of the single-element beam wing remained the same as last year.

Ferrari SF-23 technical detail

Ferrari SF-23 technical detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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