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Formula 1

Flawed by design- the McLaren Mercedes MP4-18

Mclaren - Flawed by design- the McLaren Mercedes MP4-18 - Formula 1

In 2003 McLaren Mercedes was desperate to find a design that could bring them back to the front. Team principal Ron Dennis was looking at a radical design. That design came from Adrian Newey presenting the MP4-18. The car was packaged more tightly than previous MP4 cars, reducing overall weight. The nose was lowered and the side pods where smaller as well. The MP4-18 also was the first car to have a front wing the extends infront of the nose to reduce the effect the nose has on the aerodynamics. The exhaust was positioned in the defusers to potentially increase downforce.

The front suspension was a Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pushrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement with the rear being a Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pushrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement. The car had a Mercedes FO11OP engine and was driven by David colthard, kimi raikkenon, and Alex Wurz.

Testing

Mclaren - Flawed by design- the McLaren Mercedes MP4-18 - Formula 1

The MP4-18 took to the track to prove it’s worth, but it did not deliver. The car suffered from terrible overheating problems due to the lack of air cooling the engine. The car also suffered from poor balance. The car changed after the first test when they changed the exhaust layout by making high exhausts vs the air going through the diffuser. This helped reduce the heat issue, but the problem was still there. the team also developed a new Titanium-Composite gearbox. This is a gearbox casing with carbon fibre bonded together to titanium parts. While this made the gearbox lighter than that in the previous MP4-17, the bonding could not withstand the higher temperatures inside the car. In their final test, test driver Alex Wurz tested the car for 330km, only to find out later that day that the internal temperature of 120°C engaged de-lamination of the gearbox. Also The MP4-18 failed the FIA side crash twice. Finally Ron Dennis made the decision to scrap the MP4-18 for the 2003 season.

Mclaren - Flawed by design- the McLaren Mercedes MP4-18 - Formula 1

For the 2003 season McLaren was forced to develop the MP4-17D as their full season car after the disappointing MP4-18. The MP4-17D won the first two races, but the distraction that was the MP4-18 lead the team to have slower and slower pace as they continued competing. The Finn Kimi Räikkönen constantly finished in the points despite the lack of pace from the MP4-17D making hime narrowly lose the title by just two points.

The MP4-18 was one of the biggest flops from McLaren Mercedes in 2003. The car tried to be radical, but the designs where just too innovative and untested making the car unreliable. The car started a Grand Prix due to its design flaws meaning we will never know how fast it could have been.