Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Tech analysis: The 12 key changes on the McLaren MP4-31


Giorgio Piola and Matt Somerfield give their verdict on one of the most hotly-anticipated cars of 2016: the McLaren-Honda MP4-31.

Despite a pretty disappointing campaign in 2015, McLaren and its drivers remain optimistic that things will be very different for the second year of their partnership with Honda.

Indeed, the problems with last year's package were so fundamental, and changes needed so extensive, that it seems logical to suggest that big jumps should come for the season ahead.

At the online launch of the new car, McLaren talked about 'all-new innovations' on the car – although offered little detail about what exactly they were.

Here we look at the key points of interest on the car.

1. The nose borders on the shortest 'thumb' design we have seen, with the extreme slope back to the bulkhead mitigated by the continued use of the split 'S' duct.

2. Like the other launch cars we have seen, the front wing is a carry over from last season and may be revised before Melbourne.

Red Arrow: The MP4-31 might not be full of innovate new parts but it does have some nice detail touches.

A small duct has been placed in the front wing pylons, allowing airflow to pass from the outer to inner surface. This is likely quite important given the length of the pillars and how the airflow needs to be controlled.

3. The Vulcan-finger style front brake duct is retained by McLaren as it clearly sees the benefits it has on shaping the airflow around the tyre. However, like Mercedes did last year, it has tacked another duct on to it.


McLaren MP4-31 detail
McLaren MP4-31 detail

Photo by: McLaren

4. The inlet for the 'S' duct, under the nose, has been enlarged, which should allow more airflow to pass through the duct to the upper surface, overcoming the nose's steep inclination.

5. The steering arm has been mounted in front of the upper wishbones front arm. This reduces blockage and increases the surface area with which the team can condition the airflow rearward.

6. The team has retained the blown axle which takes airflow from the brake duct and passes through the hollow axle, controlling how the tyre wake is shed.

7. The upper rear arm of the wishbone is placed much lower than the forward section, suggesting the team is in search of aerodynamic gains from it. This is a novel solution from McLaren and not something that myself nor Giorgio can recollect being done before. 

McLaren MP4-31 detail
McLaren MP4-31 detail

Photo by: McLaren

8. The sidepod shape, inlet and aerodynamic control devices are all very similar to the car's predecessor.

9. The floor slots introduced in Singapore last year are shown on the launch version of the car but it is an area that continues to interest teams, and could be amended going forward.

10. The rear section of the sidepods and engine cover seem to remain relatively unchanged, suggesting that Honda has kept true to its word on the retention of a size-zero philosophy.

11. McLaren has returned to a standard suspension geometry for 2016 having utilised the butterfly style suspension blockers in 2014 and retaining the offset rear leg in 2015. The gearbox will have also been redesigned, changing the placement of the suspension pick up points.


2014 McLaren MP4-29 rear butterfly suspension
2014 McLaren MP4-29 rear butterfly suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

12. Like the Ferrari and Mercedes-powered cars, the Honda power unit will utilise two wastegate exhausts, in this case either side of the main exhaust.

However, what has really grabbed our attention is that it has taken a design cue from Toro Rosso, intersecting the main exhaust with the rear wing's central mounting pylon.

This not only brings structural stability but also acts as a flow stabiliser for the exhaust plume.


The rear wing of the Toro Rosso STR10 support pylon on the STR10 intersects with the exhaust
The rear wing of the Toro Rosso STR10 support pylon on the STR10 intersects with the exhaust

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event McLaren MP4-31 launch
Teams McLaren
Article type Analysis
Topic Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis