Technical analysis: A detailed look at the McLaren MCL32

Nose and Front-Wing

McLaren’s front-wing retains all of the hallmarks of its predecessor at launch, although this is actually a bit of a surprise. A straight leading edge profile was trialled in 2016 so whether that pops up again remains to be seen – Sauber have already adopted this design. A notable change is the increase in upper flap elements (now five) to tune the formation of the Y250 vortex. 

Elongated nose pylons guide the air along the car’s centreline. These are an evolution of last year’s concept, with two further slots directing airflow inwards and back towards the splitter. Underneath the nose and beginning at the proboscis nose tip, carried over from 2016, is a small fin that further assists the pylons in their work. 

With the car’s antenna moved back the S-duct appears to be new but it is actually in the same location as its predecessor, fed by an inlet at the bottom of the front bulkhead a la Red Bull.

Brake Ducts and Suspension

The car’s greater aerodynamic capabilities in 2017 allows the driver to be on the brakes harder for longer, although the braking zones themselves will be shorter. A larger force is required to slow down the larger mass created by the new tyres and the increased contact patch creates a resistive torque. More cooling is therefore needed for the brakes to operate sufficiently. 

McLaren have tackled this by creating two inlets to cool both the disc and caliper. Normally additional openings would point towards a blown front axle but a traditional axle stub was present at launch.

The usual pushrod suspension is present on the car but the rods intersect the very top point of the chassis. This could be a reoccurring design feature this year as teams seek both an aerodynamic and mechanical advantage by installing passive energy recovery heave springs, with arguments on their legality set to erupt once the season commences. 

Bargeboards and Bodywork

The MCL32 launches with a very basic interpretation of the bargeboard regulations, featuring a single vane with two serrations connected to the chassis via an aerodynamically shaped mounting bracket. The flow conditioners that shield the sidepod undercut from turbulence greet the end of the bargeboard, snaking back to meet the shoulder of the car.

McLaren’s approach to the new sidepod regulations, however, is neat. The rules require a backwards diagonal line from a point on the chassis when viewed from above – the floor, rather than the bodywork on top, has been used to meet this criterion. This has enabled the team to focus on shaping the sidepod intakes as they desire, continuing with their inward facing inlets from last year to best cool the internals. The narrower bodywork and a traditional sized airbox as a result of this thinking will help reduce the car’s overall drag. 

A larger shark fin completes the tidy mid-section of the car.


Whilst there isn’t much McLaren can do about the wing’s profile and number of elements, the endplates are an area where creative thinking can flourish this year. 

Gill-like pieces of bodywork suspend from the overhang that the endplates create as they clear the rear brake ducts, each piece overlapping each other and facing inwards. The gills guide turbulence from the rotating rear tyre to the inside of the endplate through a gaping hole. 

A familiar set of outward facing gills line the base of the endplate – these direct clean airflow into the same region as the outwash from the diffuser. These little details will aid the performance of the floor below and the rear wing above to produce more downforce and decrease drag.