With its Honda nightmare firmly in the rear-view mirror, McLaren built upon the foundations of its Renault-powered era with a much-improved 2019 season that resulted in a best-of-the-rest position behind the big three teams. Team newcomer Carlos Sainz scored his first F1 podium (and the team’s first since 2014) in the Brazilian Grand Prix, and followed that up by sealing sixth in the drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi.
Rookie Lando Norris backed up Sainz, and even out-qualified him over the season. New team principal Andreas Siedl and technical director James Key pushed the team in its positive direction, along with performance director Andrea Stella. Steady developments allowed the chassis to achieve its full potential across the year, while the change in Pirelli tyre specification also seemed to play into its hands in terms of car performance.
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McLaren MCL34 bargeboard
McLaren looked to hit the ground running at the start of 2019, introducing a new bargeboard setup at the Bahrain GP. Changes included the leading footplate being cut back (red arrow, dotted line), a revised pre-bargeboard with additional vertical slots (white arrow) and a new splitter extension (blue arrow).
McLaren air inlet
McLaren used a more expansive infra-red camera setup during Free Practice sessions in 2019, as it looked to gather extra tyre data that would give them the edge over rivals.
McLaren MCL34 front wing comparison
A new front wing assembly at the Spanish GP featured subtle changes, but having got off to a decent start with the original design it simply wanted to tweak what it already had. The new design (top) saw the curvature of the leading edge of the mainplane altered, this in-turn changed the exposure of the strakes beneath and how both influenced the performance of the wing. The curvature of the flaps was also altered, along with the position and orientation of the adjuster, changing the distribution between downforce and flow/wake management. You’ll also note they moved the camera pod from off the flap, placing it on the edge of the endplate instead.
McLaren with flo-viz paint
The MCL34 is seen here with flo-viz paint sprayed over it during a Free Practice session at the Spanish GP as the team look for signs that the update package is working as intended. It also serves as a good illustration of how much the air is worked by the car.
McLaren MCL34 sidepods detail
A deflector array update arrived in time for the team’s home GP at Silverstone, as it looked to improve flow consistency along the car’s flank.
McLaren MCL33 bracket
Front suspension design was a key area for performance gains throughout 2019 as the teams got a fix on the kinematic and aerodynamic effect that the new rules had, combined with the tyres introduced by Pirelli. McLaren looked at various solutions throughout the early phase of the season to get the best from the now en-vogue pushrod on upright solutions that permeate the grid.
McLaren MCL34 front suspension detail
At the Russian GP the team trialled another new front suspension and upright solution – using an extension for the upper wishbone at the outboard end. This could be an early indication of the direction that the team might take in 2020.
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