McLaren Mercedes Launch MP4-29 Challenger In England

Kevin Magnussen (left) and Stoffel Vandoorne (right) stand next to Jenson Button with the new McLaren MP4-29 Friday in England.  [Photo courtesy of McLaren]

WOKING, England-After finishing a disappointing fifth in the world constructor’s championship last season with no single race win, the McLaren Mercedes team began the 2014 launch season Friday with the unveiling of it’s MP4-29 challenger at the McLaren Technical Center in Woking, England.

Despite the rear wing is the same size as last year, the rest of the car is different, with the Mercedes Benz V-6 turbo engine on the vehicle for the first and only time as the squad will have it’s contract run out at the end of the season and replaced with Japanese Honda engines. The front wing is a little smaller, to comply with the new FIA rules to try and slow the car down during races. In the case with the engine alone, the car is equipped with bigger sidepod openings to feed the radiator and cooler.

According to Jonathon Neale, McLaren Managing Director, the team will take more of a pragmatic view of the racecar considering all the new regulations that many of the F1 teams will be facing this season.

“We’ve never had such significant new regulations before; reacting to them, and managing those changes, while still pushing the performance limits, has been an extremely tough job,” Neale said. “We’ve been relatively pragmatic about it. We know that the need for consistency initially outweighs the need for performance – the winter tests won’t be about chasing set-up or refining the car; the envelope of performance is likely to be so wide, and so relatively unknown, that the winter – and to some extent the opening races – will be about understanding the operational boundaries of the car as best we can.

“To achieve this, we need a consistent platform – one that responds positively to changes. Moreover, the work of the engineers and designers to understand and interpret trackside data will be more important than before. That’s because this year, more than ever, will come down to a development race: I don’t necessarily think you can expect the car that wins the opening race to be the car that leads the championship charge, something we’ve often seen in the past.

“No, it will be all about a team’s ability to react and respond. We already have an update package that we’re readying for race one, and we’re discovering new things in the ‘tunnel, or in CFD, all the time. Once we start track testing, I think you’ll see an intense throughput of ideas and concepts – that’s the nitty-gritty that will win or lose the world championship.”

For the first time since 2007, McLaren will be without a major sponsor, as the British telephone giant Vodafone has decided not to renew their contract for 2014. Despite this, Spanish bank Santander, who sponsored the team last season, will remain.

However, the absent major sponsor is not the only change in the team’s line up, so are some of the drivers. Jenson Button returns for the final year of his contract, while Sergio Perez’s position now has a Danish flavor with the emergence of Kevin Magnussen, son of the former f1 pilot, Jan. Also in the lineup is reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne.

Considering many fans are worried about how the new engines will sound, Button believes that they will not turn away disappointed.

“Everyone is talking about how the engine will sound compared to a V8 and it won’t sound the same, of course not,” he said. “From what I’ve heard it still sounds pretty good. It’s a real mix of sounds because you’ve got the turbo, so it’s quite an unusual sound. But I like it, it sounds good. But it’s not important for me to like the sound, it’s important for me to have a car that I can win with. For the fans it’s still going to sound good and the racing on the circuit this year, I think, is going to be better than ever. I really do.”

Finally, managerial changes have occurred as well. Martin Whitmarsh is no longer on the payroll, and Ron Dennis steps in from his CEO job. However, rumor has it that on this same day, Eric Boullier has stepped down from Lotus position, and Dennis might hire him to become Team Manager. If this is true, then the Frenchman could work with Sam Michael, who already is in at sporting director,  and this combination could make the team reappear in the top of the formula one world championship given some time and good results.

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