FEBRUARY 2, 2004
A new philosophy at McLaren
The development pace in Formula 1 is such that each new design quickly becomes obsolete as engineers develop the potential of each car as quickly as they can. At the same time designers and aerodynamicists are constantly finding new ways to make cars go faster although progress is often held back because modifications cannot be fitted to existing chassis.
Ron Dennis says that this year McLaren will have four development steps in the course of the season, one of which will require the chassis to go through the FIA crash-testing procedures. Although the team says that the number of the car will not change and that the revised chassis will have a B, C or D designation, the fact that new crash-testing is required suggests that the the team will have made changes which could be considered to be a new design.
In recent years teams have adopted different routes to develop chassis: Ferrari took to introducing its new car after the first few races while last year McLaren planned a similar move but ended up developing a car which was never raced.
Building what amounts to a second car in the midseason will help teams keep up with the latest design trends and incorporate lessons they learn in relation to the new regulations.
This year McLaren says it has a car which has been carefully designed to make sure that the team can be flexible when faced with the new engine rules. The rules limit the use of extra engines and that means that it may be advantageous to switch an engine between different chassis in the course of practice and qualifying. It might even be necessary to change engines in the middle of the 90-minute qualifying session if a car is damaged beyond immediate repair. The team says that it will probably be taking four different chassis to each event as a result, an indication that cost-cutting measures do not always result in cost-cutting.
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