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Lucas Gonzalez
Lucas Gonzalez

18 Mp4

The McLaren MP4-18 (sometimes stylised as MP4/18) is a Formula One car which was built with the intention to compete in the 2003 Formula One season. The car, designed by Adrian Newey, Mike Coughlan, and Neil Oatley, was a radical new design that incorporated numerous ideas that were still in their infancy in Formula One. Many of these ideas would be used again, such as the blown diffuser on the Red Bull RB7. Several problems with the car that revolved primarily around cooling the engine and gearbox meant that the car was stillborn.

18 mp4

McLaren also decided to delay the debut of the MP4-18, with former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley saying in an exclusive interview with The Race, "If we were going to catch Ferrari, we'd have to go way beyond what people considered normal."[7] A shadow team working under Neil Oatley were to develop McLaren's interim car, an evolution of the 2002 car named the MP4-17D.[8] At the season opener in Melbourne, David Coulthard took the final win of his career with the MP4-17D. After the race, Dennis commented regarding the MP4-18 saying that "I think it will be a good step and a match for the new Ferrari, so we'll be pushing hard on that. In the meantime if we can get results like this we will be delighted."[9]

The MP4-18 carried over the newly introduced concept of twin-keel suspension from the MP4-17, bringing on experienced twin-keel specialist Mike Coughlan following the liquidation of the Arrows team.[10] The idea of twin-keel suspension was still in its infancy in Formula One, being first introduced in 2001 by Sauber designer Sergio Rinland.[11] Other changes included positioning the exhausts within the diffuser in order to create a "blown diffuser" effect; drastically tighter rear packaging (a commonality on modern cars);[7] a longer, narrower nose that dropped down; and narrower sidepods.[12]

Alongside the Williams FW25 of that year, the twin-keel configuration was combined with a "waved wing". The latter acted in a similar fashion to a diffuser, creating a low-pressure area below the wing, sucking the nose and the front end of the car to the ground.[12] This was a first for teams and for Formula One, and both teams developed the concept independently.[12] The front wing and nosecone were also designed in a way that the front wing was the first structure to disturb oncoming air, meaning that the structure of the nosecone would play a significantly smaller role in aerodynamics.[12][10]

In contrast, Ferrari stuck with the high, protruding nosecone philosophy.[13] The narrow sidepod and tight rear packaging philosophy was borrowed from the F2002, which had noticeably narrower sidepods and rear packaging than any car of the 2002 season.[12] The MP4-18 had sidepods that curved down significantly at the rear, whereas the MP4-17 had a relatively smooth and mild round-off. In order to achieve the narrow sidepods, McLaren ultimately sacrificed the side crash structure, most likely resulting in the failure of the FIA-mandated side crash tests.[12][14]

In Adrian Newey's memoir, How to Build a Car, he reflected that the MP4-18's problems stemmed from the shape of the chassis.[7] He wrote that "the problem was related to the shape of the chassis and the front of the sidepod overloading the vortex that forms off a delta wing just in front of the sidepod, causing the vortex to be unstable and burst in certain conditions. The problem could be alleviated by trimming the wing, but this lost downforce." In order to resolve it Newey called for a chassis redesign, an almost insurmountable task in the middle of a season.[7]

In the early 2000s, Ron Dennis adapted a mantra of pace over reliability, saying that he "would rather have a fast unreliable car than a slow reliable car."[15] Changes to the points system for the 2003 season meant that there was greater emphasis on reliability, something with which Mercedes-Benz was struggling since the ban of beryllium.

Until 2001, Mercedes-Benz used an aluminium-beryllium alloy to line their engine cylinders and a beryllium alloy in their pistons.[16][17] This allowed Mercedes to build an engine with a longer stroke yet still rev as high as the Ferrari engine due to the increased elasticity of beryllium alloys, producing more power.[17] During the 1999 season, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn was quoted regarding the Mercedes engine, "With a longer stroke, Mercedes reaches the same revs we do. God knows how they do it."[18] On 6 October 1999, the FIA moved to ban beryllium from engines beginning in 2001, despite Peugeot and Mercedes being the only manufacturers who were using beryllium at the time.[17] Mercedes-Benz suffered as a result, with Adrian Newey saying, "The power we had in 2001 was no more than the power we had in 1998. We obviously need to improve on that."[17]

Mercedes-Benz would design a completely new engine for the MP4-18, an evolution of the FO series, dubbed the P spec.[12] Estimates for how much power the engine produced ranged from 870 bhp to 888 bhp.[12][19] The engine was mounted very low in the chassis, so as to lower the centre of gravity, but the McLaren mechanics described working on the engine as a nightmare; every time the engine was disconnected from the chassis, it would damage the car.[20]

The gearbox was also new: a titanium gearbox with casing bonded to carbon fibre parts, which resulted in a reduced weight compared to the MP4-17D.[12] This gearbox, like the engine, proved treacherous to handle, being so fragile that there was uncertainty whether or not it would work after being taken out and put back in.[20]

At the 2003 San Marino Grand Prix, Ron Dennis was asked on when the MP4-18 would debut, answering cryptically, "No sooner than Canada and no later than Silverstone."[9] Following the debut of Ferrari's F2003-GA at the next grand prix in Barcelona, Coulthard commented that, "We have to have the new car out as soon as possible. That's the only way I believe we can continue to challenge for the Championship."[9] Norbert Haug, then Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz, commented in June, saying that "I have never seen a more impressive car [the MP4-18]."[9]

The effects of the radical design changes were immediately clear at the MP4-18's test debut at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Straight away, the car faced overheating problems due to the small area within the sidepods (in which the radiators are situated) that did not allow for the decompression of heated gas or air.[12] This was quickly amended in the second test, with two holes punched at the rear of each sidepod, just below the "Mercedes" logo on the car.[12] However, this did not resolve their problems, with the Mercedes engine proving to be delicate and requiring more cooling than expected.[10] The cooling problems were so severe that Marc Priestly mentioned the car was coming back from every test "on fire", requiring the constant presence of fire extinguishers in the pit box.[7]

At another test in Jerez, McLaren test driver Alexander Wurz suffered a large shunt due to floor delamination, the cause of which was never determined.[20] He walked away unharmed.[21] At the Barcelona tests in June, Kimi Räikkönen did not fare well either, shunting at the final turn, bruising his knee[22] and writing that chassis off.[20] Wurz successfully tested the MP4-18 for 330 km (205 mi) in Austria; however, when he came back into the pits it was determined that the internal temperature of the gearbox had reached 120 C (248 F), causing delamination.[10]

The MP4-18, despite its drawbacks, was the foundation for the MP4-19 which raced in the 2004 season. Adrian Newey said that the MP4-19 was identical to the MP4-18;[7] in many ways it was, carrying over the narrow nosecone and slim sidepods.[23] However, the Mercedes-Benz engine still remained problematic, with McLaren encountering reliability issues until the introduction of the MP4-19B upgrade at the French Grand Prix.[23] Newey believed these problems could have been resolved had he not been outvoted in a decision as to whether to retain the MP4-18's design or evolve the design further, the latter of which he was intent on.[7]

The McLaren MP4-18 is a car that was destined to race for McLaren in 2003, but was found to be too unreliable. It is a radically different concept compared to the McLaren MP4-17, thought out by Adrian Newey. McLaren had even attracted twin keel specialist Mike Coughlan to the team to support the major leap the team was about to take.

The car is the result of a dramatic push to package everything in the car more tightly while also reducing its overall weight to allow for more ballast movement. This tight packaging also initially created some annoyances with the team's mechanics who found the car much more difficult to work on compared to McLaren's other recent F1 cars.

Aerodynamically the design attempts to exploit this tight packaging by sporting a completely different layout. The nose for instance is narrow and long, dropping forward to the front wing and nearly touching it, allowing for extremely short front wing supports. Unique for cars at the time is also the front wing which extends ahead of the nose, preventing the shape of the nose to influence the initial flow onto the front wing.

The sidepods were also redesigned and the exhaust pipe endings are again positions inside the diffuser, a concept which potentially creates more downforce than Ferrari's scooped exhausts, as featured on the Ferrari F2002. However, having the exhaust blow into the diffusers makes rear downforce increase when the driver presses the throttle. This is what everybody wants to improve acceleration, but the problem is that rear downforce also suddenly drops when the driver starts to brake. The McLaren design team however found it interesting enough to try the concept one more time.

As soon as the car hit the track though, cooling and car balance proved to be major issues. After only the first test, McLaren were forced to modify the car with high exhausts, dumping the attempt to generate additional downforce by blowing exhaust gases into the diffuser. Although this change improved cooling, that issue was still not entirely solved, as also the new Mercedes engine proved to require a lot of cooling and was generally too fragile during the early tests. 041b061a72


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