Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Matt Somerfield (SomersF1)
I think it’s fair to say that 2013 was rather a lacklustre year for the Woking based team who’s 2012 campaign was bookended by great results. A slump in the middle of 2012 just when the team were focusing their attention on the MP4-28 led the team to think aggressively in order to chase performance. This was compounded by the team’s mistakes around Pirelli’s 2013 offerings thought to emanate from the scale model tyres given to the teams to work with. 2014 will be seen as an interim year for McLaren with it being the last year in a 19 year partnership with Mercedes as engine suppliers, as Honda becomes the power unit of choice once more in 2015.
I think it’s fair to say that the MP4-29 Front Wing shown here will be a placeholder as genetically it’s almost identical to the one used by the team at the tail end of 2013. The only real difference comes in the form of a new Endplate which see’s the front section of the element forming a partnership with the rear portion having a slot, allowing airflow to move from either side.
The nose of the 2014 cars as we know has come in for intense criticism and McLaren have clearly opted for the ‘finger’ nose route. This option although ungainly meets with the minimum height regulation (185mm from the reference plane)  and covers the 9000mm2 at 50mm behind the tip section of the rules whilst McLaren’s signature arc’d connection pylons remain , maximising the amount of airflow space that can pass under the nose/chassis.
Forming part of the nose, McLaren have employed forward turning vanes that droop midway below the nose, helping to turn the airflow (early at the Floor and Sidepods)  these will help not only manage tyre wake emitted by the front wheels (especially in yaw) but also help to control the Y250 Vortex.
Last season McLaren decided to be aggressive with their challenger, one of their decisions was to use pull rod suspension at the front of the car as had Ferrari in 2012. Many people blamed the suspension choice as a factor in their poor form but I’d still argue otherwise. However with so many other complicated issues to surmount for 2014 the team have decided to switch back to push rod front suspension for this season.
Another season, another new Sidepod inlet design with the team utilising a triangular configuration on the MP4-29. This allows for a deep undercut enabling good clean flow around the Sidepod to the rear of the car. Whilst the physical shown the MTC has the bulk of the car shown there are elements that are visible in the Sam Michael video and the 3D rotating vehicle on McLaren’s website that are missing.
The Airflow Conditioners on the edge of the floor are consistent in all three variants however what is missing from the physical vehicle are twin Vortex Generators  atop of the Sidepod and an interesting expanded Horseshoe Vortex Generator that lies on the Sidepod’s shoulder  and is likely a Chimney that will dissipate airflow from the internal flow of the Sidepod (Something that we saw used pre 2009). I look forward to seeing the car in motion to ascertain which of these components make it to Melbourne as McLaren did the same last season too.
The rear of the Sidepod has been treated to an extreme makeover affording maximum floor space and enabling airflow the room to manoeuvre. In front of the rear tyre and on the floors periphery we see that the team have added tyre squirt slots.
With the crank position raised on the 2014 powerunits it seems McLaren have taken the opportunity to raise the crash structure up off the floor too allowing airflow more free reign. Above this we can see that the team have decided to vent the used, warm air from the Sidepods alongside the centralised exhaust exit.
There had been talk before the cars launch that the team had been working on a revolutionary rear suspension system. It seems that this was no more than a stacking of the suspension elements in order to simulate the Beam Wing now ruled out by the regulations. Having adopted the halfshaft encapsulated in the lower wishbone arrangement last season the team have returned to it being exposed.
Exhaust, Rear Wing & Brake Ducts
Inline with the Sidepods cooling exits we find the exhaust exit (Red) which is encompassed by a cylindrical element (Cyan) that not only forms a section from which a Monkey Seat Section (Yellow) is flapping but also creates the rigidity for the Rear Wing structure. This is enabled by a singlar pylon (Green) which reaches from it’s centreline up to the underside of the rear wings mainplane.
The Rear Wing features strakes that run in an ever increasing arrangement up the side of the Endplate in a similar vein to the trailing edge slats we saw on the Ferrari F138 in 2013. These strakes however will likely aid in recovering some of the losses associated with the Beam Wing removal, creating a stepping stone for the airflow to interact between the Diffuser and Rear Wing flaps. The team have retained the leading edge tyre wake slots which help bleed pressure from one side of the Endplate to the other.Rear Brake ducts will become an area of intense development over the course of 2014 as a proportion of the braking assistance comes from the enhanced ERS. This therefore means the teams can utilise the Brake Duct region to manage airflow and it appears by the strangely shaped ducts on show here that McLaren intend to do just that.
Having had the evening to reflect and go over some more of the videos/images released by McLaren I have a few more comments on the MP4-29. Firstly I find it interesting that McLaren have returned to needing/having a metal stay under the chassis to hold to Splitter and although the bow of the Splitter is more withdrawn on this car I cannot help but think of this: Red Bull Splitter Stay.
Airbox / Roll Hoop / Cooling
Having already seen the rendering of the Force India VJM07 we established their need for an additional cooling snorkel just aft of the standard airbox. McLaren however have decided to divide their inlet into two, something the team have done in the past with the upper section likely feeding an oil cooler (like Force India) and the lower section feeding the Turbo.The roll structure itself is something that only changes between each iteration of car due to it being an intrinsic design element of the chassis and requiring the crash tests to be passed once more to facilitate a change.
McLaren have changed their approach this year with the team creating a deeper undercut under the Airbox and adding 2 additional rearward spars to enable the car to pass the crash test. This area of the car requires careful consideration as not only does it need to be rigid enough to pass the FIA’s tests but must also be as light as possible in order to keep the CoG (Centre of Gravity) as low as possible. Of course the other consideration is the aerodynamic implications and thus the deeper undercut was likely primarily driven by this.
A minor detail but worth sharing is the small cavities seen here on the mirrors edge. These likely house/integrate thermal imaging camera’s that can be used by the team to monitor the thermal properties of the tyres as they deform and heat up during a lap.
Tyre Squirt Slots
I’ve already mentioned these in my original run down but with a fresh image from atop of the floor I thought they were worth mentioning again. As we can see the team have added 2 quite substantial slots to the floor (when compared to some of the wafer thin ones we saw proliferate the cars in 2012/13). The rearward more elongated slot appears to see the floor also twisted to markedly increase the effect of conditioning the airflow in that region.
The height of the conditioner is a few inches lower than what we have seen from McLaren over the last few seasons. Although this may seem strange on the physical car, we know from the images during the Sam Michael video that a Chimney is placed on the Sidepods edge in the diagram. I suspect that is the reason for the shorter conditioner with the Chimney creating an airflow structure that the conditioner will interact with.
By utilising a sculpted section of bodywork ahead of the cylindrical tube which surrounds the exhaust, the team are able to utilise both internal airflow exiting the engine cover and the airflow passing over the bodywork to manipulate the exhaust plume’s trajectory. This undoubtedly works with the design of the stepped strakes on the Endplates to make the Diffuser ‘talk’ to the Rear Wing.Many have pointed out that the ‘finger’ nose on the McLaren could be disguised a little better with the help of some livery adjustments. McLaren’s current livery is likely to change by the time the car touches down in Melbourne but here’s a couple of retro liveries photoshopped onto the MP4-29 by Alan Searle in the meantime.
As always this is a preliminary analysis based on the images to hand I will add more as and when information/images are available