McLaren MCL33 F1 challenger debuts in Papaya Spark

This McLaren orange will turn heads, but will the new Renault power do the same?

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New Zealander Bruce McLaren founded his eponymous race team in 1963, entered the Formula 1 World Championship in 1966, but fielded his first "McLaren orange" car in the 1967 Can-Am Championship. The following year, Bruce's F1 cars got the orange juice and birthed a mythology. McLaren F1 returns to those 50-year-old roots this year with its MCL33, painted Papaya Spark with contrasting Burton Blue and Cerulean Blue. The team hopes you won't be able to miss the #14 and #2 cars emerging from the weeds they've been lost in for three years while under Honda power.

With little change in the regulations beyond the advent of the halo, the MCL33 evolves last year's MCL32. Other than the halo, the big work involved reworking the engine compartment for the Renault power unit — the first time in McLaren's 52 years in F1 that the team has used a Renault engine. There are two engine architecture philosophies in the sport now, one used by Mercedes-Benz and Honda, the other by Renault and Ferrari. Accommodating the new partner meant redesigning the back of the car, including the cooling layout, gearbox bell-house area, and rear suspension.

Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne continue their tenures with the Woking, England, team. Playing it cautious after three years of disappointments, Alonso said, "I feel incredibly excited — but also apprehensive. I know just how important this car is to the team, and I just hope that it delivers in the way we all want it to." Executive Director Zak Brown will hope so, too, so he can please the same fans who petitioned for that classic papaya livery, and so he can hide more of that paint under sponsor logos.

A curious note on that Petrobras sponsorship — McLaren will actually be using fuel and lubrication products from the sponsor it signed last year, BP Castrol, while Petrobras spends this year developing fuel and lubricants for the team.

The MCL33 hits the track today for a film session, then begins eight days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next Monday.

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