5 Early Takeaways from McLaren-Honda's MP4-30 Launch
McLaren have taken the wraps off the MP4-30, the car which marks the start of what they are hoping will be a highly successful partnership with Honda.
The silver and black machine was unveiled in an online launch with images and video made available to the public along with the usual statements. Though the colour remains largely the same, there are a number of significant changes made to the bodywork.
The tight rear packaging immediately catches the eye, as does the team's attractive nose solution.
Bits and pieces are missing from the images released (DRS and brake ducts, for example), and the car we see on track for the first test in Jerez will look slightly different. But until then, here are five early takeaways from the launch.
No Big Livery Changes
After months of anticipation over what the new McLaren-Honda livery would be, this was a bit of an anticlimax.
Honda white? McLaren orange? Nope—same old black and silver, the scheme which has formed the base of all McLarens since 1997.
It uses more black than the 2014 car and the red flashes, reminiscent of the Vodafone liveries, push the MP4-30 over the line into the "very beautiful" category.
But something different would have been...fun?
The Nose Is Long...and Very Pretty
McLaren have taken a totally different route to Williams, so far as their nose design is concerned.
The MP4-30 features a very long, flat, smooth nose with a broad, rounded tip. Predominantly silver and edged with red, it looks like something we haven't seen a lot of in recent years—a real racing car's nose.
No fingers, thumbs, keels or fancy shapes—just a nose. A very pretty nose.
Hopefully they'll keep it.
Significant Developments in the Bodywork Department
The rear of the car features a number of significant bodywork changes.
The sidepods taper in much tighter at the back (compare to the 2014 version shown on F1Update's photo) in a style not dissimilar to the Red Bull. The chunky, downforce (and drag) enhancing rear suspension additions (seen here on Autosport) of the MP4-29 appear to have been ditched.
A rear wing support, present on the MP4-29, is not in evidence on the launch pictures. But a 360-degree render published on the team website shows one coming from the rear of the engine cover.
At the front, we see a front wing which looks identical to the one the team tried out during practice for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Downforce was a major problem for McLaren in 2014. Will the changes make 2015 a happier year?
Lots of Empty Space
Black is the absence of light. On the McLaren, it also marks the absence of sponsors.
The sidepods are devoid of any branding, as are the sides of the car and large swathes of the front and rear wings. There are a few new ones—CNN on the front wing and KPMG on the airbox. Segafredo is fairly new, too.
But Hugo Boss is a notable departure and most of the car is just empty space. The lack of companies willing to invest in sponsorship is a worry for McLaren and is evident across the sport as a whole.
Unless they have an announcement coming soon...
The Team Are Optimistic but Realistic
Launches are the time for bullish statements about the year ahead, but McLaren were not getting ahead of themselves. Though there was much talk of starting a new era, Jenson Button was cautious. His comments on the team's website included:
It’s been interesting to spend time in the factory during the past few weeks: you can really sense a feeling of reignited optimism and positivity around the building. I've never seen such motivation amongst the guys—we’re all massively keen to get going in Jerez and to work hard on developing our new car.
But we’re under no illusion that it will be easy—there’s a huge challenge ahead of us to try to pull back the gap to our rivals, but we’re certainly up for it. We ended last season with great momentum and clear progress, and I’m determined to carry that forward into 2015.
Ron Dennis also had one eye on the more distant future, speaking of winning world championships "eventually," while Fernando Alonso spoke of understanding the "effort and teamwork required to take McLaren-Honda back to where it should be, at the front of the grid."
The team and their engine supplier appear to be looking at 2015 primarily as a year of learning and recovery—but aren't entirely writing off the possibility of race wins.