McLaren have outlined the “finishing touches” that go into preparing a Formula 1 car ahead of the launch of the new MCL36 on Monday.
Although much of the focus in F1 surrounds development of the car performance in the search for crucial tenths, the method of applying a livery has also been subject to significant advances in recent times with many teams switching from painting to vinyl wrapping.
McLaren have “wrapped” their cars for the last three seasons and, in a post on the team’s official website, have explained the advantages that come with the modern trend.
While some parts of the car – including headrests and mirror stems – remain painted, wrapping has been found to be “both lighter and faster,” cutting both lap times on the track and production times off it.
For instance, the task of adding and removing partners from the car now “takes seconds” with the vinyl wrap attached to the car “through a careful but quick 100-degree heat treatment” and has been likened to the process of applying a screen protector to a smartphone without leaving any air bubbles.
Darren Smith, a member of McLaren’s Surface and Brand Technology operation, has explained the ease of switching to wrapping in recent years having spent the previous three decades as a painter.
“Our team will work with Brand Creative on the design,” he said.
“We’ll get given the vinyl templates, which we lay onto the panel and apply. We get given each part separately as it is made. We would never wrap an entire car from start to finish in one go, but if we were going to, it would probably only take our team a couple of days.
“Once you’ve done it a few times, you pick it up. It’s fairly easy.
“And anyway, if you do get a big air bubble somewhere, you can poke a hole into it, heat it up, and the hot air comes out, and it reseals itself.
“Honestly, it’s so workable.
“We’re basically the last in the production line before the panels, and parts get bolted to the car, ready to go racing.”
McLaren have prided themselves on innovative branding initiatives over the years with the most recent occurring at last year’s United States Grand Prix where the team’s cars featured a digital dynamic sponsor system.
The trick saw two panels fitted either side of the cockpit, which allowed the team to switch between sponsor logos when the car was out on track. The technology could also be used to display messages on the helmets of McLaren’s drivers.