McLaren MP4-27 and MP4-26 compared

2012 F1 season

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Here’s how the new McLaren MP4-27 compares with its predecessor.

Find more pictures of the McLaren MP4-27 here.

McLaren MP4-27 and MP4-26 side comparison
McLaren MP4-27 and MP4-26 comparison

2012 F1 season

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Images © McLaren

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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116 comments on “McLaren MP4-27 and MP4-26 compared”

  1. it seems the mp4-25…

    1. Nope, the 25 started with the numbers 1&2. The 26 had numbers 3&4. This was the ‘launch guise’, as Martin Whitmarsh said – “expect the car to look different come the first race”

      1. @mattb I think what he meant was it looks more like the MP4-25 than it does the MP4-26

        1. I stand corrected. Would be good to compare the 25/26/27 all together

    2. You’re a long way off mate,The MP4-25 is quite notable with its Shark fin as well as it’s Front wing

      1. Front wing and shark fin aside; the -27 is passable as a twin of the -25.

  2. Silly question perhaps… where will the number go on the side of the rear wing? It has the “Button” livery, but no number…

  3. Noticeable rank angle there I reckon.

    1. @supernicebob doesn’t really matter though. You could photo a car standing still with any rake angle. The real question is; how much rake can they run on track?

      1. Good point, very true. It just struck me as one of the immediately obvious differences in the two pictures.

        1. @supernicebob Where there could be a significant impact on this though; is how much rake was “built” into the car. The MP4-26 wasn’t built for rake. The RB7 was. So what happened was even when the floor was raked, the “car” – in terms of the sidepod intakes, the nose, were still dead-on straight. The MP4-26, which looked straight in “no-rake” mode, was basically facing down when McLaren started using rake.

          1. Indeed, looks as if McLaren went for Rake rather than getting air over the top as they did with the L/U sidepods last year.

  4. Elliot Horwood
    1st February 2012, 11:55

    No Aigo sponser this year?
    Seems like there are no ‘major’ changes just changes that adhere to the new aerodynamic regulations – everything else seems to look the same apart from standard sidepods. See how the car performs on track.

    1. And no Jonny Walker sponsor on rear wing either…

      Didn’t Mclaren once run an orange Jonny Walker livery in testing before becoming a Silver arrow?

      I’m sure the sponsor spaces will be filled soon enough.

      1. mayhemfunkster
        1st February 2012, 12:32

        It was a historic McLaren Livery! – Bruce McLaren used to run his cars in orange prior to the sponsorship era.

      2. I think the only reason they became a ‘silver arrow’ is because they stopped being sponsored by Marlbororo (orange and white) and instead by West (black packs of cigarettes) they have just dropped the amount of black livery in favour of more red for Vodafone.

  5. I think new car has a nicer side profile.
    It’s a good looking car to me, wonder how many other cars won’t go with the horrid nose.

  6. I see they dropped the U shaped sidepods… I’m guessing the new exhaust regs may have had something to do with this… A few Newey idies have gone on to this… Rake, Mirrors & rear wing end-plates. Black rims look much better.

    1. I’m pretty sure McLaren were the first to run the rear wing end plates in 2010. There is also no way to judge the rake unles we know what they’ve set the suspension levels at.

      Black rims do indeed look much better. It’s also a shorter wheelbase when you compare the tyres meaning it potentially should suit Lewis’s pointy driving style. Hope so.

      1. @john-h wheelbase does have an effect on handling responsiveness; but on the scale of an F1 car they’re pretty much negligible. There still won’t be much difference between the longest/shortest wheelbase cars even in the Loews hairpin.

    2. What do you mean on the rear wing end plates? Do you mean the vanes? If so they were a Toyota innovation (see the TF109) and were adopted by McLaren in 2011.

  7. Yeah… I like the new car better. There are a few noticeable changes like the exhaust exits and the nose curves downwards more sharply. Proving that there is an alternative to Caterham’s interpretation of the rules.

  8. What do you guys think of the new pirelli markings?

    1. Much better and clearer to see what tyres are being run. Thumbs up!

  9. The engine cover looks a lot more simple, wonder if the cooling has been changed dramatically underneath?

    1. @sam3110 you mean from the top view? I’d reckon that’s more due to the fact that you’re looking at the U “trough” in the sidepod of the -26…

      1. nope I mean from the side view, look at the engine cover on both, lots of bumps etc from the rollhoop air intake on the -26, very smooth and soft on the -27

        1. Aha. Gotcha.

  10. So, so much better. Doesn’t look as long and clumsy as its two predecessors. Looks refined and compact which makes me see it as nimble and agile.

    The livery needs updating, but other than that, the car is gorgeous.

    1. I always like the way the Vodafone “tear” tapers off to compliment the sidepods, but it would be nice to see something different. At least they are actually silver, and not just grey like the Mercedes.

      1. I really miss the red strip across the top of the engine cover. I thought it broke the chrome up nicely. I don’t mind the livery, on second thoughts. It’s distinctive. Although I much preferred their ‘West’ liveries.

  11. Looks like they did something about the rear-view mirrors as well.

    1. @necrodethmortem looks like they copied the RB7 mirrors to a T actually! Which I found confusing, seeing as McLaren have been running practically the same mirrors they used on the -26 since… Oh I don’t even remember since when.

      1. @raymondu999 Don’t forget both Lewis and Jensen conplained about the mirrors vibration in the MP4-26. It makes sense that a vertical mirror mounting will suffer less from vibration under high G than a diagonal & horizontal design

        1. @the-last-pope I don’t get the connection. The mirrors vibrate not due to lateral acceleration, but due to the turbulent air that is produced by the mirror stalk and housing itself.

          1. @raymondu999 thinking about that you are right about why the mirrors vibrate, but I still see that at high speed there is constant bumps that create an up and down force added to the vibration caused by air. A vertical stalk will be imune to all vertical forces where a horizontal stalk would be very suscepable to it. It also seems to me that it is better to have horizontal vibration as the mirror surface is wider than it is high.

          2. @the-last-pope The problem has never been about the mirror moving up/down and left/right in the housing – it’s back and forth…. which is caused as it gets sucked by the turbulent air behind the housing.

  12. I really don’t understand how you guys all like it…

    It looks so bulky and clumsy. The nose doesn’t suit the car at all, And the side pods and engine cover… they kind of balloon out.

    It’s horrifying. Of the two so far the Caterham is way ahead :/

    1. Each to their own @mike

      1. It’s nice that this site lets me speak strongly against the grain as I can see most others like it a lot.

        1. The only thing I’m not keen on is the chrome, and that’s because I’m bored of it. Would prefer a white/red livery like the 80’s.

          1. Yeah, that’d be sweet.

            I’m starting to believe that something is going on with the side pods, there is no advantage to be had in larger side pods (I believe) but I can’t work it out yet.

            Why would they be so large?

            (I rant when I think)

          2. I mean, the bottom of the side pods are cut in a lot, but I’m not sure it would necessitate the top be that wide.

          3. They are wide, but very shallow and slope quite steeply behind, there must be some performance advantage there.

            Also, there’s an aerial comparison pic above now which shows how compact the rear end is compared to last year.

          4. That’s true.

            Maybe my mind is just playing tricks on me.

          5. I think it’s a visual trick caused by the chrome.

    2. I think they are doing something shifty with the exhausts to be honest.

    3. When I saw it, I thought it looked a but… chubby! haha. I do still like it though :)

    4. You’re certainly not alone, @Mike! I’ve seen plenty of people bemoaning its livery and saying it looks bulky, but personally, I quite like it. The sidepods are trim much better looking than those on the MP4-26, and the nose looks rather nice on it.

      I think it looks sort of like the MP4-25, but without the ugly shark-fin engine cover. Plus it doesn’t looks as long and clumsy to me. It seems to have a shorter wheel-base, which is a welcome sight for me as I hated the look of the 2010 cars at first. This seems much more compact and nimble. I hope it’s quick so we can have a good season!

    5. yeh, will be interesting to see if not having the dropped front wing will be a negative for mclaren… lets see what ferrari and redbull produce.
      the car looks nearly identical to last years car, but websites like are going on about how ‘beautiful’ it is. they didnt say that last year. makes me laugh. i think the thing that will keep mclaren within reach of redbull will once again be the mercedes engine and mercedes kers.

  13. an extended Snowplow? and that DRS wing is small at a very step angle.

    1. No one seems to talk much about it, but this is the third consecutive year McLaren has a tongue-like structure beneath the nose, a sort of a double nose (which I understand is for channeling the air flow around the nose area and towards the side pods better). Correct me, anyone, is I’m wrong.

  14. Parts of MP4-25, Parts of MP4-26. Only exhaust looks interesting.

    1. you were expecting to see something completely new then?!
      It’s refined version of last year’s car of course!

  15. Is it possible McLaren tries to hide their exhaust-system and therefore put that ugly wart on the side ???

    1. No, the rules say where is is this year, you can’t hide it anywhere.

    2. yes, maybe…

      1. I guess you’re right, but it looks so awkward…

        1. It could be different come racing, bigger opening or slightly different angle but it will be in roughly the same place, it can be hidden as such.
          I assume you mean they’ll try some different options, if you do then I’d agree… they will.

  16. Those wing mirrors sure are raised up compared to the MP4-26. I wonder if this is due to the drivers having a higher seating in the car?
    Or maybe it’s so Lewis will be able to see Massa this season! ;)

    1. I think that part of the car is lower compared to last year because they decided not to go with the horrid step down nose solution.

    2. Urrrmm Massa was always the one infront.

      1. not in Japan.

  17. last years car looked better IMO. this year the mclaren looks a bit fat.

    1. Completly agree! The MP4-26 looked really aggressive and I for one liked the U-shaped sidepods.

  18. I’m sure someone will do proper ones, but I did a quick one of the 25/26/27. Well actually I just took an existing comparison of the 25/26 from HunnyF1 and put the 27 in there (top/plan views), but here you go:

    1. nice one.

      It first glance i notice the exhaust blobs on the MP4-27.

      the rear is packaged differently in all three cars.

  19. I love these side comparisons, they make me wanna play “Find 10 differences”.

    Talking about the design of MP4-27, I don’t think it’s ugly although I’m a bit tired of the chrome.

    I’ll just quote David Coulthard. It is what it is.

    1. Agreed with the chrome. I don’t like it that much any more either. I however doubt that it’ll change any time soon, for example, back to the white and red of the marlboro days as it might look like a Ferrari (in the sense that Ferrari have introduced white to the wings etc). I think there would have to be a major change in sponsorship, or company image for there to be a change.

  20. Guys the reason it looks bigger is the rake angle look at the gap under the car to the floor its nioticable bigger at the back under wind load it will push the car down at the back but they obviously realised that last year they didn’t have enough adjustment in the rake angle so have jacked it up at the back. Its obvious this is where redbull got quite a bit of there performance from last year as their rake angle was extreme. I think this car is a big improvement over last year aero wise and the nose is the icing on the cake. This is awesome and fills me with confidence for the 2012 season. Looks like they have some clever hidden scoops and deflectors added also to direct air to the floor and spoil the airflow at the back of the car. I think they are aiming to get in front early on and disrupt the airflow at the back as much as possible to negate the effect of the car behinds drs.

    1. Dirty are would only effect the following car in the corners.

      1. @scribbler What @mike said. In the straights you would benefit from dirty air.

      2. Aero has less effect on the cars in the corners unless your talking about ground effect. the biggest effect on straightline speed is aero and drag coefficient. There for if you can spoil the air and effectively pass that dirty air onto the car behind you will slow them down. Now the DRS was introduced to give cars a fighting chance of breaking this cycle of not being able to pass but if you can spoil there clean air by the same net amount as the DRS gives them then your back at stale mate.

        1. Im just saying that this car looks like it will make a lot of turbulence for the car behind based on the new channels and deeper rear wing end plates. Of course its only any good if you get in front.

        2. @scribbler Dirty air means less drag and less downforce. What do you think slipstreaming is?

          1. Yes but thats a narrow sweet spot thats eroded over the years. Im talking exactly as your point suggests that by spoiling the air you break the tow.

          2. @scribbler For one, dirty air = slipstream/tow. The more dirty air you have, the slower the car behind is in the corners, but the less drag they will have. The following car will be slower in the corners but quicker on the straights.

            Making turbulence also causes YOU a lot of drag; and will slow your own car down. A LOT.

          3. When a car moves it displaces the air behind it.
            Look at the bottom picture at this link.

            Slip streaming occurs when another car occupies this space, because there is less resistance from the air, as it has been displaced, there is less resistance from the air. Therefore the car is able to go faster than it normally would.

            However, for an F1 cars aerodynamics to work effectively it needs that air to be moving across the car.

            You can see here how a wing works (note that this is how an aeroplane wing works, which is the same as the wings on the cars, except upside down.) , as the diagram shows, because the air has to go further across the top of the wing, it moves faster, this, as the air is spread thinner, creates a low pressure zone above the wing. This is what pushes the wing up.

            When the air the wing passes through is disturbed, it means that the wing can’t function as well as it normally would.

            Down the straights this doesn’t matter as you don’t need a particularly high amount of grip but it makes it a lot harder to follow the car through the corners.

            Right, so, I hope that helps. Was a bit long. But I thought it might help.

        3. DRS is meant to make up for the dirty air slowing cars down in the corners.

  21. Just wondering, is this the MP4-26 at the beginning of last year?

    I’ve noted the rear-wing improvements & the fact it’s a lot slimmer, but it’s not as innovative as I had hoped by the looks of it.

    I hope it’s gonna be quick!

    1. Car launches always use “end of last year” wings and floors.

  22. These overhead photos show off just how ridiculous the wide front wing + skinny rear wing concept is. Bring back mechanical grip please!

  23. I think it is pretty clear to see that the MP4-27 has a much tighter rear end than last years car. You can only presume this is to increase the airflow to the diffuser/rear wing to try and claw back some downforce. I guess this is why they have dropped the U shaped sidepods, the majority of the cooling was done in the outer section of the sidepods which made it more difficult to keep the bodywork tight at the back

    1. @kbautomotive the two aren’t really comparable in that sense. The MP4-26 had air go through the channel in the side pods; and the air now is moving around the outside of the side pods. Last year’s car, tight didn’t matter as the fat **** was all low down anyways; where the air WASN’T going.

    2. @kbautomotive the two aren’t really comparable in that sense. The MP4-26 had air go through the channel in the side pods; and the air now is moving around the outside of the side pods. Last year’s car, tight didn’t matter as the fat rear end was all low down anyways; where the air WASN’T going.

      1. I agree, the U sidepods were feeding more air straight through to the rear wing and I think (by McLarens own admission) they were very dependant on exhaust blowing to help feed the diffuser. No EBD means the air has to come from somewhere else, hence the tight coke bottle with undercuts which the MP4-26 did not have or need

  24. Regarding rake, I am no expert at aerodynamics but I would think we will see less rake on 2012 cars compared to last year. They were using the exhaust blown diffuser to ‘seal’ the diffuser to the ground with a higher rear ride height than they could otherwise use. I think the cars will still have more rake than in days gone by because the teams have learned the benefit of using rake to keep the front wing low and control the under floor air flow

  25. From the side, the MP4-27 looks to flow so much better than last year’s iteration. I also think that the tightly packaged rear end of this year’s car will really help McLaren, as will the noticeable rake.

    What I’d like to see is the comparisons of the cars from 2009-2012. Because to me, the MP4-27 has some similarities to the 2009 version. Maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me though.

    I’d also enjoy the teams to change up the liveries once in a while. It doesn’t have to be anything major, but it can get a little repetitive.

    1. Scratch that, after looking at it. Although some of the features kind of resemble the MP4-24. I’ve found that the MP4-25 does look very similar to this year’s car. (Apart from the fin that attaches to the rear wing)

  26. There’s definitely something going on at the rear end that they’re not letting us in on!

  27. Not sure why all the chrome hate, might be one of the few things I really love about today’s McLaren. There was a great article in F1 racing back in Oct 2010 about the painting process and how AkzoNobel have managed to reduce the weight and number of coats it takes to prime and paint the car, really makes you appreciate all the finer details some teams put into trying to find an edge.

    My only complaint is stilll with the regs. Dear FIA, please bring back the wider rear wing. Bring it back or do away with wings all together.

    1. Reflective surface could potentially be more than just styling and possibly heat reflection for Hot races. Black paint as we know adds to heat soak. Especially when they are just sat on the grid with no airflow.

  28. It looks better then last years car, and I like the new sidepods. They are slimmer and is sort of triangles pointing towards the car, only just very slight, but it gives it an aggressive look.
    Though I hate the exhaust outlet on the back. Oh and that livery.. please get rid of the chrome!
    It makes it impossible to see the lines and curves on the car, and with all the reflections it looks way too bussy.
    A gray, silver or white version would be better. Maybe McLaren orange, just for the sake of it.

  29. interesting to note, supposedly everyone wants higher noses, but this mp4-27’s nose is a bit lower than even the 26. However, the front wing supports are much shorter, keeping the wing higher off the ground, which could potentially swoop more air under the car, even without a high nose. Also, noticed that the floor plate strut behind the front tires looks beefier.

    1. I believe lower noses are mandated this year, according to the third paragraph of this article.

  30. Let’s wait the first test. Car looks great, ‘hope it runs in the same way… Regarding rake, I don’t see the front wing design being in favor of high rake levels as in RB7’s case. The future will provide an answer for sure… Good luck guys from Woking.

    1. this is last year’s front wing, the new one will be fitted in testing

  31. I’m looking forward to seeing the ‘ugly’ Ferrari now…. 2 days to go!

  32. can someone do a front comparison?

  33. The Black Rims make the Car look so much better :D

  34. The thing I noticed most of all (aside from the cleaner sidepod profile) was the bulkhead. I was looking for alligator bumps like the Caterham, but McLaren have played it smooth instead.

    Look at the height of the area between the cockpit opening and the front wheels, in relation to the height of the tyres. It’s significantly higher on the MP4/27, leading to a more curved side profile down to the required low nose.

    I wonder if McLaren has had to move the driver up accordingly? Certainly the feet will be higher, so either the driver must be more recumbent or higher overall. It’s interesting to work out what the potential motivations for this might be, since keeping mass lower down in the car is generally desired. I guess it shows just how uncompromising the search for optimum aero flow to the rear of the car is, in the face of other attributes.

  35. The rear wing on the new car caught my eye. Obviously McLaren have spent alot of time on the back of the car, last year they struggled for downforce at the back of the car compared to the Red Bull. This was where Adrian Newey nailed it with his design, the Red Bull was by far the fastest car through medium and highspeed corners last year. This was always McLaren’s achilles heel! Looks like a natural progression from 2011, nothing too radicle. Want to see how it drives next though!

  36. sid_prasher (@)
    1st February 2012, 19:45

    Looks neat! Is this the nose that they will use or we will get to see that only during the testing?

  37. Looks like the Mp4/27 didn’t do enough exercise during the winter : now it has become all fat : fat nose, fat back. And I don’t think that shorter winter tests will help that. But at least, it hasn’t a broken nose like the Caterham…

    Well, I’m a bit disappointed, this year’s car isn’t looking that good. I just hope it will be mega-fast! :)

    1. Have you seems how narrow the heat venting is?

    2. PS its incredibly tight compared to last year, have a look at the shots from directly behind and from behind the rear tyre (diagonal). We haven’t seen a merc engined car with a tighter rear.

      Lets wait and see the others before we decide if more of a diet was needed. ;-)

  38. A hint of MP4-24 at the back there (i.e. looks far more svelte and sleek) and also the sidepods? It actually looks more like a combination of the 24 and the 25. Anyway, great looking machine, I was expecting a pig after the Caterham.

  39. I do think the chrome is getting tired, but those who want to go back to the red-and-white Marlboro livery: look at the 94-95-96 McLaren. All hideous.
    Back to the MP4-27, I like it. It looks elegant and more tightly packaged than the 26. And that nose has considerably put some faith back into 2012 car design.
    Best looking car of the season, I bet.

  40. The rear wing on the MP4-27certainly looks to suit the car more, it looks finished and more refined. The front also has a better looking curve to it. Who knows if it will correlate on the track though.


  42. Elliot Horwood
    4th February 2012, 23:05

    Image shows how McLaren actually have a LOWER nose than Ferrari, even with the ‘step ladder’ design ferrari have

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