That process got under way last week when Caterham beat all the others to the punch by unveiling its new Renault-powered CT01. And that's all well and fine, but we all know that the Caterham is far more likely to finish last than finish first. What you're bound to see taking checkered flags is the car you see here: the new McLaren MP4-27.
McLaren, you see, is the winningest team on the grid this side of Ferrari. And with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton – both world champions – performing the driving duties, the British squad is hard at work on closing that gap. The more immediate challenge, however, is overcoming Red Bull, which returns as reigning champion once again and to which McLaren finished second last season.
The MP4-27 you see here is the car with which McLaren hopes to seize the lead. Although the design looks rather similar to the 2011-spec MP4-26 it replaces, McLaren insists it represents a comprehensive redesign. Fortunately that does not include the stepped platypus nose already shown on the Caterham and which is expected to proliferate across a good part of the grid. Power once again comes from Mercedes-Benz, a relationship that McLaren reiterates it is not about to terminate in favor of another supplier or building its own engines in-house.
We'll have to wait and see as the season gets underway to see if the MP4-27 will be a winner for McLaren, but for now you can check out the high-resolution images from the launch in the gallery above, and jump past the break for the full press release and the sound file of the Mercedes-Benz V8 cranking over.
2012 McLaren MP4-27 Fireup by Autoblog
Woking, UK, February 1 2012
The continuation of our double world-champion driver line-up, further consolidation of our
championship-winning engineering team and a subtle, yet deep-reaching technical update of
our car all underpin the world-class strength, experience and ambition that exists at Vodafone
McLaren Mercedes ahead of the 2012 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
This morning's technical presentation of the MP4-27 at the McLaren Technology Centre
showcased a natural evolution of last year's six-race-winning car and underlined the message
that the new season is very much one of growth through strength and continuity.
After finishing second in both the drivers' and constructors' championships in 2011, our aim for
the new season is to fight for both world titles from the very start of this year's campaign.
Evolutionary design of MP4-27 masks overhaul of all major systems
While the all-new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 closely resembles last year's multiple
race-winning car, the 2012 chassis has been substantially revised from the ground-up, with all
major systems updated or re-designed for the new season.
The most evident visual differences include more tightly waisted rear bodywork, developed to
improve flow to the rear of the car, and a revised cooling system, which re-directs the gearbox
oil-cooler. Last year's U-shaped sidepods have also been re-designed – a legacy of the FIA's
new exhaust regulations that redefine the shape of the rear bodywork.
Best driver line-up in Formula 1 retained for third successive season
Maintaining the belief in the validity of strengthened continuity, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
is the only team in Formula 1 whose driver line-up consists of two world champions: Jenson
Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Between them, they have scored 22 grand prix victories for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and
are the strongest and most consistent driver line-up in the sport.
Maintaining the partnership into a third successive season was merely a formality.
Strength drawn from consolidation of engineering and race teams
On the technical front, our exemplary engineering trio Tim Goss (director of engineering),
Paddy Lowe (technical director) and Neil Oatley (director of design and development
programmes) once more remain at the forefront of the drawing office. For 2012, they will be
joined by sporting director Sam Michael, whose arrival coincides with the re-organisation of
our trackside personnel roster to ensure both growth and development within the group.
Off-track: the most complete team in Formula 1
Away from the track, the team continues to develop, too: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes last
year became the world's first carbon-neutral Formula 1 team, efficiently managing its carbon
footprint and purchasing carbon credits to completely offset its emissions.
As well as continuing relationships of record-breaking length with partners such as Hugo Boss
(31 years), TAG Heuer (27 years), Kenwood (22 years), ExxonMobil (18 years), MercedesBenz
(18 years), Hilton (eight years) and Vodafone (six years), our new strategic partnership
with GlaxoSmithKline continues to gather pace. Development and planning continue on the
McLaren GSK Centre for Applied Performance, while GSK's Lucozade scientists are busy
developing a groundbreaking cockpit drinks formula to hydrate our drivers during grands prix
Finally, in a year when the world's spotlight will shine on London and the 2012 Olympics, we're
proud that equipment and technology pioneered at the racetrack by Vodafone McLaren
Mercedes and developed by McLaren Applied Technologies will be used by Team GB's
athletes in their quest for Gold this summer.
Following a one-day private shakedown, Jenson will begin track testing of the MP4-27 at
Spain's Circuito de Jerez on Tuesday February 7.
THE BEST DRIVER LINE-UP IN FORMULA 1
JENSON BUTTON (GBR)
Date of birth January 19 1980
Titles 2009 world champion
Wins 12 (five for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes)
Jenson Button joined Vodafone McLaren Mercedes as the newly crowned world champion at
the end of the 2009 season and re-signed a new multi-year deal with the team last autumn.
His runner-up position in the 2011 world drivers' championship, including victories in Hungary
and Japan and a career-best last-to-first final-lap win in Canada, along with nine further
podium finishes, underlined his credentials as one of the most respected and complete drivers
in Formula 1 history.
The 2012 season will mark his 13th season in Formula 1.
"With the regulations remaining relatively stable, we've really been able to focus on the detail
with this year's car. I still think we had a very fast package last year – it was very strong in
certain areas – and our race pace was almost always fantastic, but we're hoping for a further
step forwards in 2012. With Mercedes-Benz, I think we also had the best overall engine and
KERS Hybrid package in the pitlane.
"We were also able to continuously develop throughout the year to match Red Bull – and that
shows that we have the knowledge, effort and resources to sustain our efforts across the
course of a whole season, which can be crucial.
"I know that the whole team is extremely proud of the MP4-27. It may look like a direct
evolution of last year's car, but we've analysed every area of performance over the winter and
the whole car has benefited from lots of fresh thinking and new ideas in every area. I'm really
looking forward to getting behind the wheel in Spain next week.
"I know that everyone will be watching us very closely to see what progress we make during
the pre-season tests, but I genuinely believe we have every reason to feel optimistic about the
progress we've made and our competitiveness this year."
LEWIS HAMILTON (GBR)
Date of birth January 7 1985
Titles 2008 world champion
Wins 17 (all for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton, 27, made his Formula 1 debut with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2007,
immediately making headlines for his supremely assured blend of speed, wisdom and sheer
audacity on the racetrack.
A world champion at the age of 23 and, uniquely, a race winner in all of his five Formula 1
seasons, Lewis remains one of the fastest, most gifted and compelling drivers in F1 history.
At the end of 2011, he threw himself into a series of intense preparations ahead of the new
season, training at high altitude in Colorado and at home in Switzerland.
"The winter has been a great opportunity to recharge – I got away into the mountains, spent a
lot of time hiking and running, improving my fitness and starting to prepare for the new year.
"It's always great to get away from everything; change the scenery. And what's great about
Formula 1 is that you start each season with the baseline completely reset – everybody starts
again from zero – and that always makes me so hungry.
"I've been keenly following the development of MP4-27 over the winter and I've been really
encouraged by the results and the data that the engineers have been showing me. I think we
already had a very strong base to build upon: Jenson and I won six races with MP4-26 last
year and I think we've been able to retain all the strengths and the reliability of that design
while also incorporating lots of improvements and new ideas into the new car.
"Of course, the biggest changes for 2012 are the modifications to the exhaust regulations –
that will reduce the downforce and grip that we had last year, but it just puts the emphasis on
the designers to try and claw some of that back in other areas.
"I get the feeling the MP4-27 is going to feel very new and exciting when we get to drive it for
the first time."
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"The 2012 season will be an important one for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: having finished
second in the constructors' championship for the past two seasons, we're determined to
mount a sustained, hard challenge for both world titles.
"Our engineering team continues to develop and grow: while the key names who head the
department are well known – Tim Goss, Paddy Lowe and Neil Oatley – it's the strength in
depth within the department that continually impresses. I'm extremely proud of our efforts to
invest in and recruit young graduate engineers and to develop and school them in the ways of
"We have a fantastically committed team of individuals, and MP4-27 is the fruit of their labours
– it's a beautiful car, and one we feel is the perfect platform from which to launch our assault
on the world championship. While there are clear visual changes to this year's car, there's
greater change beneath the skin, with lots of fresh thinking applied to every major system. The
car is pleasingly complete.
"I don't think we want for anything from our drivers, either: in Jenson and Lewis, I believe we
have the very best line-up in Formula 1 – the perfect blend of experience, speed and
aggression. They complement each other perfectly.
"For 2012, we are well aware that Red Bull remains a very powerful and capable operation,
and that both Ferrari and Mercedes AMG are ramping up their operational capacity. We have
no room to be complacent – what you see today only scratches the surface of what we're
planning to deliver to the track both from an engineering and operational point of view
"I'm pleased and confident that we've left no stone unturned in our quest for performance.
Now, our focus invariably turns to the track as we evaluate MP4-27 ahead of the start of the
2012 season in Melbourne on March 18. These will be a fascinating three weeks."
Vodafone & Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Vodafone is the world's largest mobile communications company by revenue, providing a wide
range of services including voice and data communication.
Vodafone is the title partner and Official Total Communications Provider of the Vodafone
McLaren Mercedes team. This partnership is Vodafone's major global sponsorship and is part
of an ongoing commitment to the Formula 1 World Championship, a sport that continues to
deliver massive global television coverage and which has significant appeal for Vodafone's
consumer and business customers and racing fans around the world.
The title partnership, including the team name 'Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' and 'Official
Total Communications Partner' of the team, continues to give Vodafone dominant title
sponsorship branding on the new 2012 cars, drivers' and pit crews' overalls and helmets. Into
the sixth season of this partnership the associative rights acquired provide unique
opportunities that will continue to build brand value and raise brand awareness.
The team partnership delivers an innovative, powerful and integrated marketing platform
enabling Vodafone customers to get closer to the action through unique experiences,
innovative content, experiential events, advertising, offers and promotions. Innovative products
and services allow Vodafone to bring our customers closer to the passion of Formula 1,
empowering them to live the experience through our sponsorship programmes.
- In October 2010, Vodafone and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes announced the extension of
their title partnership.
- The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes title partnership has been hugely successful, in both
sporting and marketing terms, and the extension is testimony to Formula 1's enduring global
- Under the new agreement, Vodafone will remain title partner and becomes official total
communications partner of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Covering fixed, mobile and
broadband networks, content and communication services and associated devices, the
partnership will continue to drive forward the relationship with a particular focus on
empowerment and technical innovation by: bringing Vodafone customers closer to the passion
of Formula 1 through its services, events and experiences
- Supporting the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team's on-track success through greater
technical integration of Vodafone's total communications services.
MANAGEMENT & ENGINEERING BIOGRAPHIES
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Martin Whitmarsh graduated with a degree in engineering before joining the aerospace
industry, holding a variety of positions in research and development before running an
aerospace structures business. In 1989, he moved to McLaren to lead design operations,
becoming managing director of McLaren Racing in 1997.
He has been instrumental in assisting McLaren's growth and diversification as a group as well
as overseeing the F1 operation. In 2004, Martin was appointed chief operating officer of
McLaren Group, and at the beginning of the 2009 Formula 1 season he took over as team
principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and became chief executive officer of McLaren
Under his stewardship the team has continued to grow and prosper, attracting the services of
two of the best drivers in Formula 1, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, winning six grands
prix during the 2011 season and finishing second in the constructors' championship.
Director of engineering
Tim Goss entered Formula 1 with Cosworth in 1986 before joining McLaren as a design
engineer in 1990. He has held many roles within the team, including stints as chief test team
engineer, head of vehicle dynamics and chief engineer powertrain – a role in which he
oversaw the introduction of the sport's first-ever seamless-shift gearbox in 2005.
Outgrowing his role as chief engineer, he was appointed director of engineering in January
2011. He oversees all aspects of car specification, top-level target-setting and priority
Paddy Lowe graduated from Cambridge University in 1984, joining Williams in 1987 where he
took charge of the active suspension project, which directly contributed to Nigel Mansell's
1992 world championship. He joined McLaren in 1993 as the team's head of research and
development: through this role, he was instrumental in introducing a number of key technical
innovations to McLaren's cars and organisation, including power steering, brake-steer and the
F1 simulator. His remit continually broadened and he was appointed engineering director in
May 2005 – a role that gave him responsibility over all the engineering departments within
In January 2011 he was appointed to the position of technical director, from which he
continues to manage all of the engineering functions in McLaren Racing, defines the technical
strategy for the team's development and racing activities as well as representing Vodafone
McLaren Mercedes on the FOTA and FIA technical boards.
Director of design and development programmes
Neil Oatley arrived in Formula 1 during an era in which designers also had to turn their hands
to practical race engineering. He joined Williams as a draughtsman in 1977, moving on to
race-engineer Clay Regazzoni and Carlos Reutemann, and working alongside world
champions Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell.
He returned to the drawing office as chief designer for the short-lived Haas Lola team before
moving to McLaren in 1986, where he played a key role in the creation of a succession of
legendary championship-winning cars.
Recently celebrating 25 years at McLaren, Neil's brief as director of design and development
programmes enables him to deploy the experience gleaned through over three decades at the
cutting edge of motorsport into the specification, design and build of each new Vodafone
McLaren Mercedes car.
Graduating from Nottingham University in 1984 with an honours degree in physics, Jonathan
Neale began a lengthy career in the commercial and defence aerospace industry. Beginning
at Philips Defence Systems, he became a chartered electrical and electronic engineer and
went on to lead the advanced development group within the electronic warfare division. He
moved to BAE systems in 1991, working as a project design engineer leading major systems
projects for commercial aircraft.
Promoted through the company, he became director of operations and support operations at
the Manchester and Prestwick Sites and was responsible for aircraft production, customer
support and training. He returned to defence systems and aircraft, taking charge of the Hawk
Fast Jet Programme as managing director 1999. He gained his MBA during the 1990s and
participated in the government cabinet office's prestigious Top Management Programme
working with public and private sector colleagues.
Jonathan joined McLaren Racing as operations director in 2001 to oversee the race team's
operations and engineering processes. He was appointed the company's managing director in
2004. Jonathan is currently a fellow of the Institute of Directors and occupies a principal role
within the organisation, managing overall technical and operational strategy for the whole
Graduating from the University of New South Wales in 1993 with a degree in mechanical
engineering, Sam Michael travelled to Europe and immediately began his Formula 1 career
Over the following 17 seasons, he benefited from the tutelage and experience of Gary
Anderson at Jordan Grand Prix and Patrick Head at WilliamsF1. Promoted through both
teams, he has worked in and led design, R&D, vehicle dynamics and race engineering
departments, as well as achieving company director and board-member level at Williams. He
became the team's technical director in the spring of 2004.
He joined Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in November 2011, officially taking on the role of
sporting director at the start of this year. He forms part of our senior technical management
team, primarily responsible for trackside operations.
A rich background in mechanical and automotive engineering – including roles at BMW's
powertrain division – perfectly prepared Simon Roberts for McLaren Racing. Joining the team
in 2003 as general manager, he became operations director the following year.
For 2009, he was seconded to the Force India F1 team as chief operating officer but returned
to McLaren Racing ahead of the 2010 season.
Commercial & financial director
John Cooper qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in 1994 before joining
Avis Europe as group financial accountant. He quickly progressing through the organisation to
hold a number of key financial roles within Avis UK. He soon began working at board level
within a newly acquired subsidiary in Greece and held two further overseas roles in Italy and
Spain. John was also a member of the team who purchased the Budget Car Rental
companies from administration and subsequently became their finance director in 2003.
John joined McLaren Racing as finance director in January 2005 and has subsequently taken
on more responsibility, becoming commercial & finance director in 2010.
David Redding took on his first motorsport role in 1988, working in the Benetton Formula 1
team's gearbox department. In 1995, he became number one mechanic at McLaren, before
leaving at the end of 1996 to help set up the fledgling Stewart Grand Prix team.
When he rejoined McLaren in 2000, he moved to the team's engineering department, working
as a systems engineer before becoming assistant race engineer alongside Philip Prew.
After engineering the third car at races, he became more involved in the team's operational
side, and was appointed head of race operations in 2009. He became team manager in 2009
and is also Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' sporting representative within FOTA and on the
FIA's sporting board.
Q&A with technical director Paddy Lowe and director of engineering Tim Goss
After a successful 2011 season, what were your main aims with the development of the
Paddy: "Our main objectives for the 2012 season were to optimise downforce despite the
changes to the blown floor, and to improve our understanding and utilisation of the Pirelli tyres,
which were new to us last year.
Tim: "Although you can't see it, there's a lot on this car that's changed. However, this year has
seen more of an evolutionary set of rules, so there's less of the unpredictability that comes
from balancing resources between seasons during a time of greater regulatory change."
Paddy: "Every year, we sit down and want to design a race-winning car. We didn't have the
quickest car at the start of last season, but we're doing everything possible to build the
quickest car possible."
What are the key visual differences between the 2011 and 2012 cars?
Tim: "I think the most obvious change is the loss of the U-shaped sidepod, which we
pioneered on last year's car. We reverted to a more conventional sidepod shape for this
season because the U-shape was less suited to the new exhaust geometry restrictions. For
2012, the exhaust tailpipes now have to exit along the U-channel – so that particular feature
was no longer really viable due to the new geometry restrictions. As a result, we decided to
adopt a different approach to the way we feed the rear of the car. We have cleaned up the rollhoop area and now have much tighter rear bodywork."
Were there any particular challenges in adapting to the new 2012 regulations?
Tim: "The regulations around the exhausts are very prescriptive: the exhausts must now exit
within a very tight space at the rear of the car in order to minimise their aerodynamic influence.
The final 100mm of the exhausts must be cylindrical – so they can no longer be oval, or
flattened – and must be sited at a particular vertical and horizontal angle – between 10 and 30
degrees upwards. That's to direct the exhaust exit away from the floor."
Paddy: "One of the more satisfying challenges was being able to develop and expand our
knowledge of the Pirelli tyres. It's our second season with Pirelli – 2011 was very much a
learning year. We have used our experience from the past 12 months to design the car's
layout, aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics around improved tyre utilisation."
Have there been knock-on effects to the design of the car due to the exhaust
Tim: "They have the inevitable impact on the flow-fields around the rear of the car, yes. In
previous years, the exhausts exited directly into the rear corner of the floor; we can't do that
any more so, as you'd expect, that changes the flow characteristics at the rear of the car. The
knock-on effect is that all of the aerodynamic devices at the rear of the car have had to be redesigned."
There have been a few departures from the technical team over the winter – are you
comfortable with that?
Paddy: "I always say this, but Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is an extremely broad
organisation. Bear in mind that we have 200 engineers working here – and, if those people all
stayed in their job for 10 years, then we'd lose 20 engineers a year.
"Actually, we lose far fewer than that. It's easy to focus on those leaving, but we have just as
many people arriving here. Also, we pride ourselves on bringing on new, young and clever
guys, helping them get into the business. Inevitably, at some point, a few of those feel the
need to fly the nest and join the competition – it's not something you can avoid. But we've got
a very strong group of fantastically committed individuals here and we're proud of the work
we've all done on MP4-27."
MP4-27 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
Monocoque McLaren-moulded carbonfibre composite incorporating front and
side impact structures
Front suspension Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pushrod and bell
crank with a double wishbone arrangement
Rear suspension Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pullrod and bell
crank with a double wishbone arrangement
Electronics McLaren Electronic Systems. Including chassis control, engine
control, data acquisition, dashboard, alternator, sensors, data
analysis and telemetry.
Bodywork Carbon-fibre composite. Separate engine cover, sidepods and
floor. Structural nose with integral front wing
Driver-operated drag reduction system
Tyres Pirelli P Zero
Race wheels Enkei
Brake callipers Akebono
Master cylinders Akebono
Batteries GS Yuasa Corporation
Steering McLaren power-assisted
Instruments McLaren Electronic Systems
Paint solutions AkzoNobel Car Refinishes using Sikkens products
Type Mercedes-Benz FO 108Z
Capacity 2.4 litres
Maximum rpm 18,000
Bank angle 90°
Piston bore maximum 98mm
Number of valves 32
Fuel ExxonMobil High Performance Unleaded (5.75% bio fuel)
Spark plugs NGK racing spark plugs specially designed for Formula 1
Lubricants Mobil 1 – combining greater performance, protection and cooling
with increased economy and lower emissions
Weight 95kg (minimum FIA regulation weight)
e-Motor Engine-mounted electrical motor/generator
ESS Integrated energy storage cells and power electronics
Power 60 kW
Gearbox McLaren-moulded carbon-fibre composite
Integral rear impact structure
Gears Seven forward and one reverse
Gear selection McLaren seamless shift, hand-operated
Clutch Carbon/carbon, hand-operated