There were a lot of eyes on the black McLaren-Honda today as it rolled onto the track for the first pre-season test of 2016. They had lots to look at, too- 2009 World Drivers’ Champion Jenson Button completed 84 laps on the first day of testing for the new MP4-31.
“Today has been all about system checks and trying new things,” says the 2009 champion. “There are lots of differences with this car [compared to 2015], and with the engine. The stand-out thing that’s been very positive today is the deployment (of the KERS energy). It’s been very consistent throughout the day, we had no issues, and it was quite a bit better on long runs than last year.”
One of the biggest F1 stories over the winter revolved around the McLaren team, and whether they’d be able to bounce back after a 2015 season that can only be called “abysmal”. Maybe not only “abysmal”. Maybe “miserable”, “excruciating”, or just plan “bad” would work- but you get the idea. That deployment problem left the cars more than 100 HP down on the competition on the long straights, making the McLaren-Hondas easy pickings for the other teams, no matter how well the cars cornered.
Encouraging words from Jenson, then, should make the other teams- at least in the midfield- a bit nervous. So, too, should the Honda’s apparent reliability. “We completed five more laps today than we did in the first four days of testing last year,” says Jenson. “Which is definitely an improvement! As long as we can see improvements, and the feeling of the car is good, it’s something to build on.”
2016 McLaren-Honda MP4-31 Brings Innovation
In addition to the apparent improvements in the engine compartment, the new McLaren-Honda MP4-31 benefits from an innovative new suspension design. As you can see above in Giorgio Piola’s photos for Motorsport.com, is clearly searching for previously untapped aerodynamic performance, with the rear profile of each of the wishbone arms placed virtually on top of one another.
The upper of the two is slung lower than usual, meaning it should work in unison to pull the airflow down and around the side pod, rather into or over it. To make sure these aero tweaks work in practice as well as they do in theory, they were fitted with sensors (visible, above) on both of the rear arms of the wishbones to help monitor data from this area throughout the first day of testing.
It would seem, then, that McLaren is bringing its A-game to 2016- along with its all-champion driver lineup of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Do you think it’ll be enough to bring McLaren-Honda back to glory? Let us know what you think, in the comments.
Sources | Images: McLaren-Honda, via Motorsport.