JANUARY 24, 2005
The new McLaren MP4-20 and other stories
The McLaren MP4-20 is up and running and the Woking team will be hoping that the new machine will end the run of poor performances that have plagued the operation in recent years, culminating in the 2004 season when McLaren had its worst finishing position in the Constructors' Championship since 1983. There is no hiding the fact that the problem came not from the ability of the engineers (who proved their worth later in the year) but rather in the way things have been structured. The wrong decisions were made in the course of the winter and it was only when the results were so bad that drastic measures were needed that the team turned things around and suddenly things were going well again.
The design team on the new car was led by technical director Adrian Newey assisted by Nicholas Tombazis, who joined the team from Ferrari last year. His official title was chief engineer aerodynamic development. One of the biggest problems in recent years has been the performance and reliability of the Mercedes-Benz engines and it is hoped that this will not reoccur this year.
The new car has many detailed differences to the 2004 version but with the technical rules as tight as they now are there is little room for any major innovation and the efficiency of the aerodynamics is all that matters.
It is interesting to note that the team's sponsorship seems to be pretty much the same as last year although the rear wing no longer features the West logo. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case for the whole season but there are well-founded rumours suggesting that West will disappear from the car after the European Union brings in its new anti-tobacco legislation at the end of July.
The driver line-up of Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya seems on paper to be a very strong one. However there have been one or two strange signals in recent months which may be worrying the folk in Woking. Raikkonen has been in the newspapers twice in three months for wild sprees: the first on the island of Gran Canaria in November having been photographed. Raikkonen later apologised for his behaviour and we did not expect to hear anything else on the subject as Kimi would presumably have learned his lesson. However at the weekend there were new reports of another drunken spree at a London club. This may have no effect at all on his performance but it is unusual in the modern age for F1 drivers to get into the newspapers more than once for such activities.
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