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McLaren has not achieved even 50% of what it wants from MCL60 F1 car

McLaren says it has not achieved even half of what it wants to do with the aerodynamics of its Formula 1 car, despite recent impressive progress. 

McLaren MCL60 Singapore GP

The Woking-based squad produced another strong podium finish in last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, as Lando Norris came home in second place behind race winner Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari

The result was especially encouraging because it came at the high-downforce Marina Bay circuit that had not been expected to play to the strengths of its 2023 MCL60 package. 

But a raft of upgrades (analysed below) aimed at improving its low-speed performance appeared to pay off as the team continued to build up the strong progress it began at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

With Norris himself admitting that there were still some inherent characteristics in the car that were not to his liking, team principal Andrea Stella has echoed the suggestion that there is a lot more to do. 

“I think we have gained a good understanding of where the limitations in low speed are coming from,” he said. “They have to do with some mechanical aspects and some aerodynamic aspects.  

“On the aerodynamic side, that package we have here has addressed a portion of these limitations but actually there's still quite a lot of work to do.  

“I will say that from the car we had in Bahrain, with the improvement in Baku, then in Austria, and then here, we haven't even achieved the 50% of where we would like the aerodynamic behaviour to be to solve these sorts of issues.  

“I think what is good is that now we have an understanding of what to tackle. But this requires some more work. And it should be embedded into next year's car. Again, not 100%, because it will be a bit of a journey.” 

What changed on the McLaren in Singapore 

McLaren’s Singapore GP upgrade continued the development thread we have seen since the Azerbaijan GP, with the front-to-back makeover changing virtually every sinew of the MCL60. 

Adaptations to the front wing centre on the endplate, with the entire surface now twisted from the centreline to encourage more outwash and provide more real estate for the diveplane (new version upper right inset, below).  

This has resulted in some subtle geometrical adjustments to the trailing edge of the endplate and the lower flap juncture (blue arrow, inset). 

There is quite a considerable amount of renovation work undertaken with the MCL60’s new floor too, some of which is out of sight. 

But while we are unable to fully unravel any changes to the intricacies of the underfloor, the external changes to some of the features do offer up tell-tale signs of what might have been adjusted. 

McLaren MCL60 update comparison

McLaren MCL60 update comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

At the front of the floor assembly, there’s changes to the fence set-up, as where the inboard fence used to extend up over the leading edge of the floor, it has now been cut down (red arrow, inset). The outermost fence has been completely overhauled along with the forward portion of the floor where it ramps downwards.  

The fence is now much more inwardly angled at the front of the lower section, whilst the anvil’s shape has been amended, along with the height of the rear notch. This will obviously have an impact on various flow structures, both above and below the floor line. 

Tied into the changes ahead of it and those made to the sidepod alongside, McLaren bolstered the update package with alterations to the contours of the floor and edge wing downstream.  

Once again, it’s a double-edged sword in terms of how they impact the flow structures both above and below the floor, with the bulges seen on the upper surface of the floor resulting in cavities below, whilst adding any discontinuity also allows the pressure to shift between the two. 

In terms of the edge wing, not only has the forward section been flattened and the strakes housed upon the scrolled section been reprofiled (inset), it has also been extended into the tapering rear section of the floor (white arrow). 

McLaren MCL60 sidepod inlet comparison
McLaren MCL60 technical detail

McLaren has made numerous changes to its sidepods during the course of these regulations already and, whilst it wasn’t another entirely new concept being adopted in Singapore, the alterations being made are still significant.  

Firstly, the designers have set about improving flow conditions into and beyond the inlet, as the pinch point at the chassis has been turned down (blue arrow), resulting in a shape change being made to the mirror stalk too (red arrow).  

Secondly, having made the switch to the gullied/waterslide-style sidepods at the Austrian Grand Prix, it opted to refine its topology as part of the latest update too.  

In doing so it looks set to have improved the airflow's passage along the central channel and feed it over the rear section of the floor.  

Meanwhile, there’s also a change in the bodywork’s external geometry to help take advantage of the modifications made to the floor’s edge too. 

The halo fairing, along with the aerodynamic furniture attached to it, were also revised (white arrow), whilst the rear brake duct and toelink fairing were also modified in combination with one another in order to better interact with the alterations made upstream of them. 

McLaren MCL60 rear wing detail
McLaren MCL60 rear end

McLaren’s switch to the semi-detached tip section on its rear wing had also been updated in order to work in conjunction with the higher downforce configuration.  

The wider panel not only provides the necessary aerodynamic support to the upper flap and mainplane but also aligns differently with the edge of the endplate to alter the cutout and therefore the vortex formed at the wing's tip. 

Both drivers had this rear wing at their disposal for qualifying and the race, with the changes made to the rear wing also paired with a new beam wing configuration, whereby the lower element was more loaded than the one previously employed in the bi-plane style arrangement. 

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