McLaren has taken the covers off its 2013 Grand Prix challenger, the MP4-28, in an exciting launch ceremony at its Woking Technology Centre. The car will be piloted by Jenson Button and new signing Sergio Pérez as the team celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding.
The waiting media were kept in suspense before the MP4-28 broke cover, with the team paying special tribute to some of the outfit’s most iconic and successful racing cars.
Button, Pérez, test driver Gary Paffett and others took turns driving some of the team’s historic designs around the facility’s man-made lake before pulling into the facility through the doors in front of the waiting members of the press.
It was then down to business: showcasing the car that the team hopes will help secure its first Drivers’ Championship title since 2008 and its first Constructors’ Championship crown since 1998.
The MP4-28 is a logical evolution of its highly competitive predecessor, the MP4-27, which netted seven race wins and a further six podium finishes in 2012. While it matched the title-winning Red Bull Racing team with the same number of wins that year, the MP4-27 suffered from a number of mechanically-induced retirements that ruled both Button and then team-mate Lewis Hamilton out of title contention before the season was complete.
With McLaren being just the second team so far to launch its 2013 Grand Prix car after Lotus, it’s difficult at this stage to draw too many conclusions about the car’s design.
One contrast to Lotus’ E21 was that the MP4-28 will race with the ‘vanity panel’ that covers the unsightly stepped nose design that is expected to grace much of the field once again.
Another area of difference with Lotus was that McLaren confirmed it would be pursuing a passive Drag Reduction System (DRS), for the time being at least.
“[It is] extremely sensitive and difficult to make work,” sporting director Sam Michael said, when asked about this decision. “It is definitely an area that will, in time, become more and more exploited. But we are right at the beginning of it – and there are other bigger gains and bigger fish to fry before that one.”
“There are parasitic losses in doing such systems and, as you will notice, there are three teams that tested them last season and no one actually raced one,” added McLaren’s director of engineering, Tim Goss.
That being said, McLaren was keen not to give too much away with its design. For example, it fitted what appeared to be the MP4-27 front wing to its display model, but the team was quick to stress that many of the major changes between models were under the chrome flanks.
“It is exactly the same colour scheme and I think it looks similar to last year, but it is completely different to last year under the skin,” Button said of the MP4-28.
One can therefore expect a vastly different MP4-28 to grace the Jerez circuit next week when the first pre-season test session kicks off. Button will pilot the car on the opening two days of the test before handing over the controls to Pérez.