McLaren-Honda 2015 car launch has Formula 1 rivals intrigued

The stuttering start of McLaren and Honda's first public Formula 1 test last year has not stopped Thursday's 2015 car launch being the winter's most anticipated

McLaren-Honda 2015 car launch has Formula 1 rivals intrigued

McLaren has already been singled out by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo as the team with the biggest potential to surprise, and all eyes are now on what its new partnership with Honda produces.

Details about the design of the new car - even what colour it will be this year - have been kept a closely guarded secret despite the rampant interest and speculation.

But there have been clues about what we should expect when photographs of the MP4-30 are finally released.

The most striking visual difference will of course be the nose, for F1's new regulations have forced all teams to modify the pointed extensions that were so heavily criticised last year.

McLaren technical director Tim Goss said in a 2015 car teaser video this week that its nose "looked sensible" - and it will be fascinating to see if the team has adopted the thumb-type extension seen on the Williams or the step solution that Lotus chose.

RED BULL INFLUENCE?

Having had the best engine last year with Mercedes, it was clear McLaren's aerodynamic performance was behind its rivals.

An overhaul of its structure - allied to the capture of chief engineer Peter Prodromou from Red Bull - has been integral in a push to change that for 2015.

We already saw Red Bull-inspired front wing designs last year, and perhaps the MP4-30 will feature the kind of tightly packaged rear ends that have been commonplace from RBR in recent years too.

Certainly Goss suggested that a stand-out feature of the 2015 car was how well it had been packaged around its new power unit.

"The chassis is much tighter," he said. "Honda has done a fantastic job in packaging everything in such a tight space."

HONDA HISTORY

But the real intrigue surrounds what Honda can do on its return to F1.

That first test in Abu Dhabi last November was far from ideal, as reliability problems limited running.

Was McLaren-Honda's first test a disaster?

But Honda is unlikely to have taken what happened lightly and will have invested a lot in ensuring things are better when it returns to the track at Jerez.

Having watched from the sidelines last season, Honda has had the advantage of not only knowing what performance benchmark it is aiming for - but also having got a few design concept clues.

As Goss pointed out, there has been proper evaluation of whether or not to adopt the Mercedes-style split turbo/compressor, and in-depth discussion with McLaren to ensure that cooling requirements are absolutely ideal.

He said Honda's challenges included "trying to work out whether you put the compressor and turbine at the back of the power unit or somehow you split it and have the compressor at the front and turbine at the back.

"And where you will position radiators so you balance out cooling left to right on the car, which is terms of aerodynamics, makes things quite tricky."

Honda's successful F1 history with McLaren has left rivals wary of writing it off.

Goss thinks the opposition has good reason to be anxious.

"Honda are so dedicated to the cause," he said. "They took it to a new level back in the 1990s and they are absolutely committed to doing the same again."

All eyes are now on what Woking delivers.

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