Analysis: McLaren P1

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The McLaren P1 is one of the defining cars of the 21st Century so far. It’s much more than a supercar – it’s a new realm of speed brought to the road. Along with the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918, the P1’s release has further bridged the gap between road and race car performance, helped by the fact that all of these cars electric hybrids (albeit in different ways) to help boost power and driveability. The powertrain figures for this car are mind blowing: 531 lb ft of torque, 904bhp, 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds and a top speed limited to 218mph. All from a 3.8 litre twin turbo V8 paired to an electric motor.

When I had work experience at McLaren GT a couple of years ago I spent a lot of time around a host of different P1s and even the P1 GTR test mule (it had the cool testing camouflage at the time) so I got to know the ins and outs of the cars fairly well, particularly on the engine side.

McLaren design and manufacture their cars in house except for the engine and gearbox. The 7-speed dual clutch gearbox in the P1 is made by Oerlikon Graziano in Italy and the engine is produced by a UK company called Ricardo (who have a very rich and interesting history, so have a Google for them). These parts arrive at McLaren almost fully assembled but the mechanics will then take them apart for upgrading, particularly the engine. All of the cars McLaren make (12C, 650S, 675LT, 570S, 540C) are based around the same 3.8 litre twin turbo. However a lot of resources are put in to improving its performance, especially for the P1.

Various components will be machined, reinforced or replaced entirely by McLaren-designed parts to increase power output, such as the piston heads, turbochargers and even the block. Top level componentry is then added to further bump up power output, such as bespoke spark plugs from Bosch – the German company have been a key developer in F1’s hybrid era and have helped Mercedes achieve their recent dominance. Software engineers are then let loose on all of these bits to eek out even more horses.

Despite having two smaller turbochargers in place of one large unit, turbo lag is still an issue in this current era of motoring, so the internal combustion engine is paired to McLaren’s Instant Power Assist System (IPAS) which provides instant power at low rpm as the turbos spool up (a process known as ‘torque filling’), or it can be activated manually as a power boost. The motor produces ~175bhp and weighs just 26kg, with the large battery (that allows the car to run in fully electric mode for 19 miles) mounted directly behind the driver to keep improve the centre of mass position.

The P1 chassis is a carbon monocell with machined aluminium front and rear subframes used to mount the suspension components. This is extremely stiff and lightweight (~90kg), which allows the car to accelerate/decelerate rapidly and give the driver plenty of feedback in the corners. Huge carbon ceramic brakes are supplied by long-term racing partner, Akebono and, unlike many of the lower McLaren models, the P1 is equipped with interlinked electronic suspension to cope with the extreme aerodynamic loads on the tyres. In ‘race mode’ the P1 sits just 65mm above the ground, lowering the centre of gravity and maximising the aerodynamic potential of the car through ground effect. This therefore creates a much higher load on the tyre during a corner, so much so that even a current high performance car’s suspension system couldn’t handle it. For the P1 McLaren developed a very clever and responsive system that allowed this load to be spread across each tyre for even the most extreme load cases by using sensors and actuators to push fluid between the four dampers, providing stiffness to one side/corner of the car and softening the other to increase grip levels. This sort of technology is only really seen in F1, but even in F1 it works passively rather than a fully fledged electronic system.

Aerodynamically the P1 is a class leader: in race mode the car produces over 600kg of downforce thanks to its protruding splitter, smooth underbody and whopping diffuser. The two element rear wing can be stalled by the driver (i.e. DRS in F1) to reduce drag by 23%, and has active air braking to reduce stopping distances and increase rear stability. To have these sorts of stats on a road car is actually quite mind blowing, although most of it can’t be exploited on public roads. Despite this, McLaren have still recognised the importance of providing the average driver with a consistent platform: rather than going for peak downforce figures, McLaren have designed the aero package to help make the car easier to drive by producing good downforce at lower speeds, with the active elements of the car optimising the airflow as speed builds.

So there you have it, a very brief overview of s remarkable machine. Can we go even faster on the roads? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Analysis: AM-RB 001

I don’t know about you but since the news that Red Bull’s F1 design guru Adrian Newey was teaming up with Aston Martin for a ‘new project’, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for what kind of machine the two could produce together. Despite the lengthy wait, nothing could quite prepare any of us for what we saw when the AM-RB 001 prototype was showcased in early July.

AM-RB 001

 

Once launched the codename will be changed to something more elegant (and probably beginning with a ‘V’) but no doubt the bold body shapes that make it the eye catching will remain. It’s a little Marmite (personally I love it) however every carbon fibre-formed surface has been meticulously sculpted on CAE software to produce a car that meets Newey’s intense focus on aerodynamics. Continue reading

Goodwood FoS tech blog!

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Time to kick this blog back into life a little now that I’m free for summer, and what better a way of doing so than looking at some of the great tech on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This year’s festival was probably the best one I’ve been to out of the four or five times I’ve visited, not least because we had a great spot on the hillclimb to view the cars – on the inside of Molecomb corner along the braking zone right by the hay bales. Mercedes brought the W05 F1 car too, making them the first team to use a new hybrid-era car for demo purposes.

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First stop was the FIA stand, which was filled with some interesting information about motorsport in general as well as a few desirable racing cars.

I knew what was going to be on display there, too – the halo concept that F1 wants to introduce next season was the first thing that caught my attention as I approached. Unfortunately, rather than putting in the effort of actually integrating the halo with the car, the structure had clearly been pinched from Ferrari (they tested it pre-season) and quite literally been stuck to an old monocoque.

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Analysis: What will F1 2017 look like?

2017 side & plan

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (lots of university assignments/exam preparations going on lately) but I’ve once again teamed up with F1 Fanatic to inform you about the 2017 F1 technical regulations overhaul.

The changes are pretty widespread: bringing back the 2 metre overall width from pre-1998; larger tyres; delta-shaped front wings – there’s a lot to talk about! You can find this fairly comprehensive analysis about all the changes here. Thanks to their helpful image sliders we are able to compare the 2016 car with next year’s in a side-by-side comparison too, which looks pretty cool.

I don’t think there are many other people who have done something similar since the regulations were officially published at the end of April, so go check it out and let me know what you think about the rule changes in the comments!

Tech Highlights: Mercedes S-duct

One of the key design features of this year’s Mercedes W07 is the introduction of an S-duct. The S-duct was first seen in 2012, with Sauber using it as a way to manage airflow over the stepped nose. The idea was that airflow would be less likely to detach from the chassis if air was introduced behind the step. This was done by channeling airflow from underneath the car to a vent exiting backwards above the front bulkhead via an s-shaped duct in the nosebox, hence the term S-duct.

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Why working in F1 is not my dream job…

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MOTORSPORT – CORPORATE 2010 – RENAULT F1 – PRISES DE VUES – VIRY (FRA) – 28/09/2010 – PHOTO : FREDERIC LE FLOC H / DPPI

If you came up to me a couple of years ago and asked where I wanted to be working in the future there was only one answer: a design engineer in Formula 1. I wanted to graduate from university, dive straight into the design office of an F1 team and get stuck in – the idea of climbing the ladder and reaching the top ranks of a top team such as Ferrari or McLaren was exciting, even if I knew the dream would take years to achieve.

I admire those who are already at the top of the engineering pyramid in the sport. Adrian Newey, Paddy Lowe, James Allison and Ross Brawn to name a few who have cut it at the top of the pinnacle of motorsport. I wanted to replicate their success and have a profound impact on F1 and motor racing in general. You could argue that I, or anyone else who has the same ambition and drive, can still do exactly that. However I have been slowly taking backwards steps to see the bigger picture and I am realising that perhaps this is not possible in the way the engineers above have achieved.

Hundreds of people make up F1 teams in this era. Take Mercedes as an example: Over 500 people work on the power units alone, plus a further 500 on the chassis. Rewind 30 years ago and this number was perhaps 50, budget depending. This naturally means that anyone walking into the sport now will have a tougher time making a name for themselves than they would have done previously. Yes, F1 is a team sport, but who doesn’t want to be at the heart of it, driving development forward and leading a team into the history books? Continue reading

Tech Highlights: Mercedes’s complex bodywork

With just two weeks of pre-season testing the teams have had an incredibly tough time making sure not only that their new cars run reliably and that they correlate with what the data has shown back at the factory, but also assessing new components ahead of the first race.

Mercedes covered over 3,500 miles across both tests in Barcelona, putting one of the sport’s biggest outfits in the prime position to try out some aggressive concepts well before the season opener in Melbourne. During the second week the W07 was clad with plenty of complex devices, particularly around the sidepod area.

W07Boards

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