McLaren’s front wing has undergone quite a number of significant developments since the major rule changes introduced in 2009. Their front wing concept has always been in a different direction as compared to their rivals and an example of that can be seen this year as they are the only front running team to have adopted the smooth nose as compared to the more common stepped ‘platypus’ noses. The team from Woking have always adopted a lower chassis since the last few years and that has been the major reason why their car has been able to feature the smooth nose.
When the rule changes were introduced in 2009, McLaren built a simple front wing complying the regulations and didn’t go for very innovative developments. As specified by FIA, the MP4-24 featured a wider and larger front wing with nothing below the nose to aid aerodynamics.
From the start of 2010, we started to see some major developments on the front wing. The MP4-25 featured a ‘snow-plough’ below the nose. The ‘snow-plough’ began from between the front wing pylons, sloped upwards and ended nearly above the leading edge of the floor of the car. The ‘snow-plough’ featured a division which resulted in it having a V-shape for its major part.
The V-shape was thought to have two purposes. One was to create stronger vortices coming out from the rear of the wing. Another was to aid and improve aerodynamics near the floor’s leading edge.
At Singapore that year, there was another change introduced to the front end. The main plane now consisted of two parts. One part was ahead of the front wheel and the other section inboard. There was a new upright introduced for the main plane cascade winglet.
The MP4-26 front wing was a continuation for the 2011 one as teams started to implement the blown exhaust diffuser pioneered by Red Bull. The split wing configuration of 2010 was changed to a straighter one in the wider leading lower edge of the front wing.
This year’s car featured the new front wing at the second Barcelona pre-season test. Instead of the ‘snow-plough’, now there were two vertical vanes dropping from the underside of the nosecone which helped in guiding the airflow beneath the car although not as efficiently as the previous configuration. As this year’s technical regulations limit the use of the EBD to generate rear downforce, so the teams have had the job to reduce front end downforce to provide more overall balance to the car. The ‘snow-plough’ generated more downforce than the vertical vanes, so that would have resulted in huge oversteer which would have made the car very difficult to control into and out of the corners.
But as soon as the teams are able to recover some of the lost rear down force, we shall see more aerodynamics-improving updates on the front wing. So, it will be very interesting to see if the MP4-27 features any front end updates at the upcoming Mugello test and then at the Spanish Grand Prix.