Matt Somerfield

Why McLaren ditched its original sidepod concept

As part of a revised set of parts introduced for the French Grand Prix, McLaren came very close to the direction seen on Red Bull’s leading duo and Ferrari.

Before the French Grand Prix, McLaren was somewhere in the middle of the teams in this area.

Aston Martin was originally at one extreme in opting for the high waisted sidepod solution, while williams and mercedes had gone (at first at least) for a very short, quickly tapered arrangement.

After seeing Aston Martin and Williams turn their backs on their respective concepts, McLaren have become the latest to do so as well.

All that remains is for Mercedes to continue with its more compact pontoon design.

The design concept that McLaren initially followed (above, main image) is something that teams had enthusiastically pursued under the previous era of regulations.

The designers aimed to shrink the body around the centerline of the car and expose as much of the upper floor surface as possible.

This was made viable by the aero tools available to the designers when it came to dealing with front tire wake. The front fender cabinetry, brake line and wheel rim designs, and the spoilers, with their associated cabinetry, all contributed to the washout.

Most of these tools have been removed from the designer’s arsenal, and while teams are always looking for ways to improve their weaponry, they can’t get all of that performance back.

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Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport footage

Also, the way the ground works in 2022 is very different, with much more emphasis on the design of the tunnels under the ground that feed the diffuser. The rigidity of the floor, the ride height of the car and its cutting angle have also been significantly changed.

This led to most of the grid opting for a more benign solution and compensating for their desire for tighter bodywork and a direct performance boost. Instead, they want a selection of surfaces that can act as a buffer to realign the wake along the side of the car, rather than trying to move it forward of the floor and sidepods.

The pontoon designs used by most of the grid therefore seek to alleviate some of the problems with tire wake coming off the front tire by extending the length of the pontoon, and thus creating a divisional barrier to airflow. passing over the pontoon.

This mainly results in the use of a downward wash ramp, with the airflow being told to follow the contours in the coke bottle region at the rear of the car.

As part of this design scheme, the top surface of the pontoon can then also be fitted with cooling vents, which have returned as part of this season’s regulatory overhaul and allow the heat generated in the pontoon a pathway to evacuation.

It can also lead to the rear cooling outlet being smaller than might be the case with other solutions, which can lead to additional aerodynamic gains.

McLaren MLC36 floor

McLaren MLC36 floor

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In McLaren’s case, it also opted to tuck its cooling vents around the shoulder of the high-waisted engine cover, much the same way we’ve seen Red Bull, Aston Martin, Haas and Ferrari do it.

Changes have also been made to the floor fencing and underfloor strake system, while the floor edge has been modified as the team looks to better influence the wake generated by the front tire by pushing it away from the car.

Further downstream, you may notice that the starting line of the diffuser and the rising ramp thereafter have also changed quite significantly. The ground support is also much shorter now being connected to the pontoon ramp, rather than reaching to the engine cover.

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A number of reliability fixes also arrived as part of this package, including the rear wing endplate being cut following a reliability issue that had been raised in recent races.

Meanwhile, given the heat, McLaren has also introduced some optimisations to rear brake cooling, with revisions to the internal ducting to help channel airflow around the assembly more efficiently.

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