Tech Corner: Discovering The MP4-31

Date published: February 23 2016 - Editor

Matt Somerfield says the McLaren’s MP4-31 is a continuation of the new philosophy born out of Peter Prodromou’s arrival from Red Bull.

The team have retained the ‘Size-Zero’ rear end, that was attained with the help of Honda’s slimline powerunit in 2015 and whilst they have undoubtedly made changes to improve performance, it has not been done at the cost of space, with the sidepod inlet and bodywork geometry relatively unchanged.

Like the other launch cars we have seen, many of the key aerodynamic devices on the car are carried over from 2015, including the front wing and the floor ahead of the rear tyres, both of which may be revised before Melbourne.

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The nose borders on the shortest ‘thumb’ design we have seen, with the extreme slope back to the bulkhead mitigated by the continued use of the split ‘S’ duct, used in 2015 and refined for 2016, with the inlet under the nose increased in size.  The front wing pillars feature small ducts, allowing airflow to pass from the outside-in, which given the pillars length should help with flow stability.

Assisting the front wing in its role of turning airflow out and around the front wheels, the blown axle used in 2015 has also been retained and whilst the team have retained the overall design of their front brake duct, that provides airflow to the hollow blown axle, they’ve supplemented the larger inlet with another smaller one on the upper corner.

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The front suspension looks outwardly simplistic but, the team have placed the steering arm inline with the upper wishbones front arm, almost intimating a single element, improving flow over it.  Meanwhile, the upper wishbones rear arm is slung much lower than last year, placing it much closer to its lower wishbone counterpart, with the intention of improving flow over the two as they work together.

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Having used the suspension blocker rear suspension in 2014 and retained an offset rear arm in 2015, the team have forsaken any aerodynamic gains that could be made and switched to a more conventional layout, along with a re-design of the gearbox.

The rear wing has seen the pressure gradient slots feeding the mainplane and top flap retained, whilst the lower section has been amended. The endplates now taking a Mercedes style shape at the lower end, as the team look to ‘upwash’ the airflow structures in unison to improve overall downforce and balance.

The central mounting pylon, like Toro Rosso last year, intersects the exhaust.  This not only adds structural stability but should help to straighten the exhaust plume.  McLaren, like the rest of the field, with the exception of Renault, are running with a twin wastegate arrangement, with a tailpipe mounted either side of the main exhaust.

The full potential of last years chassis was never realised, owing to their struggles with the Honda powerunit, as such any deficiencies should be found rather easily once the team are up to full speed, with them completing more laps in the opening few days of testing than all of the tests combined last year.

Matt Somerfield