McLaren has released images of its “innovative” 2016 Formula 1 World Championship challenger, the Honda-powered MP4-31, which it hopes will propel back into competitiveness after a disastrous 2015 campaign.

The Woking-based team finished in a lowly ninth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings in 2015 after suffering dreadful reliability with its all-new Honda powerplants that were mated to an equally poor chassis.

The new car will be raced by former World Champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who will spend their second year together as teammates.

The MP4-31 continues with the black-and-red colour scheme debuted midway through 2015, although it features new backing from Richard Mille watches, which recently announced a new 10-year deal to replace the Red Bull Racing-bound TAG Heuer. McLaren also continues with its Chandon sponsorship, which replaced the TAG-Heuer funding of previous years (Chandon is a subsidiary brand of the luxury goods empire LVMH, which also owns TAG Heuer).

As is the case with every team at launch time, McLaren was confident that its new car will deliver improved speed and reliability.

“As we embark on the second year of our renewed McLaren-Honda partnership, all of us remain united in our purpose. That purpose is to develop our team towards our shared ambition: to win,” McLaren CEO Ron Dennis said.

“The result is that MP4-31’s developmental trajectory has been usefully steepened over the winter, and I’m consequently very proud of our team’s efforts.”

The MP4-31 has been one of the most hotly-anticipated cars of the upcoming season after such a disappointing 2015 campaign. The problems with its predecessor were so fundamental, and the changes needed were so vast, that it would be illogical to expect the team not to improve.

While McLaren talked up its “innovative” car – and yet gave virtually no specific details about said innovations – it is clear that a number of major changes have occurred when compared to its forebear.

McLaren-Honda MP4-31 launch

Not surprisingly, the McLaren-Honda MP4-31 features a number of striking changes compared to last year’s woeful car.

The car features one of the shortest noses of the cars seen to far, and in order to conform to the regulations it’s also one of the steepest, containing an innovative ‘S’ duct that will pass air from the nose to the supper bodywork surfaces. The car continues with its use of Vulcan-finger style front brake ducts which help to shape air flow around the tyre.

Like the Mercedes F1 W07, the steering arm has been mounted in front of the upper suspension wishbones to increase the surface area to condition the rearward airflow. The MP4-31 has continued with its ‘blown axle’ concept, which channels air through to exit from the wheel.

Like the Ferrari and Mercedes-powered cars launched so far, the MP4-31 sports a twin wastegate system with exits on either side of the main exhaust. One interesting feature is that the main exhaust is connected to the rear win via a central mounting pylon – a feature copied from last year’s Toro Rosso STR10 – which will bring structural rigidity at the rear end and further air flow conditioning for the exhaust gases.

Images via McLaren

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.