|Chassis||Carbon fibre composite survival cell|
|Suspension (front)||Carbon fibre wishbone and pushrod suspension elements operating inboard torsion bar and dampers|
|Suspension (rear)||Carbon fibre wishbone and pullrod suspension elements operating inboard torsion bar and dampers|
|Length||Over 5,100 mm (201 in)|
|Width||2,000 mm (79 in)|
|Height||950 mm (37 in)|
|Wheelbase||3,520 mm (139 in) adjustable -/+20 mm (1 in)|
|Engine||Honda RA617H, 1.6 L (98 cu in) direct injection V6 turbocharged engine, limited to 15,000 rpm in a mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive layout|
|Electric motor||Kinetic and thermal energy recovery systems|
|Transmission||McLaren Racing gearbox with 8 forward and 1 reverse gears|
|Battery||Honda lithium-ion batteries|
|Power||850-900 hp (633-671 kw)|
|Weight||728 kg (1,605.0 lb) (including driver)|
|Brakes||Akebono brake-by-wire system featuring steel calipers and carbon discs and pads|
Pirelli P Zero (dry) tyres|
Pirelli Cinturato (wet) tyres
Enkei racing wheels
|Notable entrants||McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team|
|Debut||2017 Australian Grand Prix|
The McLaren MCL32 (originally known as the McLaren MP4-32) is a Formula One racing car designed and constructed by the McLaren Honda team to compete in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship. The car was driven by two-time World Drivers' Champion Fernando Alonso, who stayed with the team for a third season; and Stoffel Vandoorne, who joined the team after Jenson Button retired from full-time competition at the end of the 2016 season. Button later returned to replace Alonso for one race and as such, the MCL32 was the last Formula One car driven by the 2009 World Champion.
The MCL32 made its competitive début at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix and is the first car built by McLaren since the McLaren M30—which contested part of the 1980 season—that does not contain the "MP4" prefix as part of its chassis name. The change was introduced following CEO Ron Dennis's departure from the team's parent company, the McLaren Technology Group, in November 2016.[N 1] This was the last McLaren car to be fitted with a Honda engine as it was replaced by Renault engines from the 2018 season onwards.
After an improvement the previous year, 2017 was another terrible season for McLaren. The cars were slow and the team's Honda engines proved to be very unreliable and they ended up battling with Sauber at the back of the grid for much of the beginning of the season. Alonso retired from the opening two races and the team suffered double retirements in China, Monaco, and Italy. The team failed to score a point until Baku, when Alonso finished 9th, with Vandoorne picking up his first point of the season with 10th in Hungary. McLaren finished 9th in the Constructors' Championship, with 30 points, three more than their first season back with Honda power in 2015.
Design and development
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) amended the technical regulations for the 2017 season to abandon the token system—which limited engine development over the course of a season—first introduced in 2014, engine supplier Honda was free to extensively redesign the team's power unit, which was named the RA617H. The company started with the ultra-compact RA615H that accommodated the "size zero" concept first conceived for use in the MP4-30 chassis, but with the RA617H moved to recreate the configuration first used by Mercedes in the PU106 series of engines. Honda's Formula One project manager Yusuke Hasegawa described the new architecture for the RA617H as "very high risk", justifying the choice as being the only way to catch up to Mercedes. Hasegawa also admitted that the technology implemented into the design—particularly around the combustion concept—was not entirely understood and that its potential would take time to fully realise. While discussing the issues with the engine mid-season, Hasegawa pointed to Honda's inability to recreate racing conditions during dyno testing; their underestimating the increased stresses placed on the engine as a result of the revised technical regulations introduced for the 2017 season; and severe vibrations affecting the transmission and oil tank as the root of the RA617H's problems.
Following the Australian Grand Prix, Honda announced that work carried out between pre-season testing and the race meant that a majority of the issues that plagued them were fixed. Although the engine proved reliable over the race meeting, it had been detuned and the gearbox shift times increased to maintain reliability. Honda also revealed that a heavily revised "B-specification" engine was already in development and would be ready in as little as eight weeks, with both Honda and McLaren developing upgrades for successive Grands Prix to make up the deficit. At the Spanish Grand Prix, Honda brought an update to the power unit in the form of a revised intake system and mapping. Honda claimed this reduced the inherent drive train vibrations significantly allowing the gearbox and engine to run relatively normal in comparison to earlier races, this provided a small bump in power. Although Alonso had an excellent run in qualifying, gaining 7th position, the power unit still experienced reliability issues in early practice sessions with oil leaks and pressure issues causing stoppages. At the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Honda introduced a redesigned MGU-H and turbo for both Alonso and Vandoorne claiming to have fixed the underlying reliability issues with those components. In addition to the new components, Honda brought one new spec engine which debuted a new fuel injection system to be used in tandem with a new BP fuel upgrade, further mapping improvements and various other minor updates for Alonso to use, however, due to the amount of penalties required to introduce the new engine, and in the interest of saving mileage on the new spec, Honda decided to limit its use to the practice sessions only, using them as test sessions to verify the engines effectiveness and for Alonso to revert to the earlier engine for qualifying and the race, albeit still with the revised MGU-H and turbo. After the Friday practice sessions had concluded, although experiencing a gearbox failure during the test, Honda remained confident and encouraged by the data the new engine showed, feeling it has made a decent step forward with the new unit while also suggesting the aim is for both drivers to have one for the next GP in Austria.
As in 2015, McLaren endured a difficult pre-season during testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Despite the overhaul to the engine, the RA617H was found to be unreliable, interrupting the team's preparations and preventing them from achieving consistent running. Fernando Alonso was particularly critical of the engine; while denying that the issues were as serious as those faced by the team in 2015, he described the RA617H as having no power and no reliability and that the issues that had repeatedly stymied the team's testing programme were "amateur problems". The team managed to complete only 425 laps in the eight days of testing compared to Mercedes, who completed over one thousand laps in the same period, and had used more engines during pre-season testing than they would be permitted to use during the regular season. The team's initial struggles then prompted reports that McLaren had sought out an alternative engine supplier.
McLaren endured a difficult start to the season at the Australian Grand Prix as Alonso qualified in thirteenth but ultimately started from twelfth after Daniel Ricciardo received a five-place grid penalty for changing his car's gearbox; Vandoorne in the second car only managed to qualify eighteenth. Alonso retired from the race seven laps from the end owing to a suspension issue and Vandoorne managed to finish in thireenth and last, having suffered from loss of dashboard readings and having his car rebooted in an unscheduled stop in the opening phase of the race. After the race, Alonso bemoaned the car's pace as being the slowest in terms of raw pace and that if other teams had not encountered unforeseen misfortunes, the result would have been far worse and urged the whole team to make huge improvements in order to be competitive.
At the Chinese Grand Prix, McLaren were expecting to be at the back of the field with the track's high speed nature exploiting the weakness of Honda's engine. The team also introduced their iteration of the controversial "T-Wing" at this race weekend. Even though Honda made further progress on its engine's reliability and power and McLaren introducing a multitude of new parts, the team had another poor weekend with Vandoorne qualifying in sixteenth but starting in fifteenth because of Antonio Giovinazzi receiving a penalty and Alonso once again managed to qualify in thirteenth. During the race Vandoorne retired on lap eighteen due to a fuel pump issue; Alonso meanwhile was showing good progress with the MCL32, which was running a much improved race over the first round and was running as high as sixth at one point of the race but settling comfortably back into eighth, however misfortune again hit the team with Alonso retiring, this time from a points paying position on lap thirty-three due to a driveshaft failure.
McLaren endured another tough weekend in Bahrain, with Alonso qualifying in fifteenth after failing to set a competitive lap during Q2 as the team decided to save his engine and Vandoorne also struggled and could only manage to qualify in seventeenth. Vandoorne failed to make it to the start of the race as his ERS system had developed a water leak during the installation laps; Alonso meanwhile was running in fourteenth and was last of the runners when his engine failed two laps from the end. Although he retired, he was classified as a finisher as he had completed over ninety percent of the race leader's distance. Alonso, being frustrated over the lack of power from the Honda power unit, said through his team radio that he had never raced with less power in his life.
At the testing following the Bahrain Grand Prix, McLaren had more reliability issues on the first day of testing and managed only seventeen laps under their test driver Oliver Turvey. On the second day of testing, McLaren managed to run eighty-one laps, void of any mechanical issues under Vandoorne, which shocked the team as they did not expect to have a failure free test session. Vandoorne urged the team to find the cause of such reliability.
The team struggled again in Russia with Vandoorne receiving a fifteen-place grid penalty for changing parts of his power unit which saw him start in last and Alonso muscled his car into fifteenth. Alonso estimated that the car was losing two and a half seconds on the straights alone during qualifying. Alonso's race ended before it even had started as his engine failed on the formation lap which made it two races in a row that a McLaren did not make it to the start of the race. Vandoorne meanwhile finished in fourteenth, only ahead of the two Saubers. Four races into the season Alonso had still not managed to complete the full distance of even one race.
European rounds and Canada
The Spanish Grand Prix marked the start of the European season and also was the point which saw first major upgrades introduced by every team for their cars. The weekend started poorly for the team with Alonso unable to set a lap in the first practice session after suffering an oil leak. During qualifying Vandoorne struggled and qualified nineteenth but started last because of a grid penalty for changing parts of the engine. Alonso enjoyed the best qualifying session of his season reaching Q3 and starting from seventh. The race proved to be frustrating, Alonso losing many positions after a skirmish with the Williams of Felipe Massa causing him to leave the track and rejoin in eleventh. He finished in twelfth, which was the first time he managed to complete the full race distance this season; Vandoorne meanwhile, retired after a collision with Massa.
The Monaco Grand Prix saw Jenson Button return for one race, substituting for Alonso, who was participating in the Indianapolis 500. This was the first race of the season at which both McLaren cars managed to get into Q3 but Vandoorne was unable to participate in the session as he crashed his car at the end of Q2; Button meanwhile qualified in ninth but started from the pit lane as he took a penalty for changing parts of his engine. Vandoorne started from twelfth after receiving a three-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Felipe Massa in Barcelona. At the start, Vandoorne lost a position to Hamilton who also had a poor qualifying session. Button retired after crashing with Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein, which saw Wehrlein's car roll onto its side against the barriers. Vandoorne also retired from the race after crashing at turn one towards the end of the race.
The Canadian Grand Prix was another frustrating weekend for the team. Honda had failed to bring upgrades which were dated for the Canadian Grand Prix. McLaren also started to show frustration towards Honda and Alonso stated that if McLaren won't win by the month of September, he would leave the team. There were also claims that McLaren had made plans for their future which did not include Honda. Alonso was greeted on his return by McLaren with an engine failure in the first practice session. He managed to qualify in 12th on a track dependent on engine power and Vandoorne qualified in 16th. At the start, Alonso just avoided a race ending crash when Carlos Sainz's Toro Rosso came spinning in front of him and hit Felipe Massa which forced the latter to retire. Alonso had to take avoiding action and lost some places due to it. Alonso was running as high as 4th at one point in the race but had to retire 2 laps from the end while running in 10th; Vandoorne finished in 14th. Alonso later said that the straight line speed deficit of the Honda power unit to others is 'dangerous'.
In Baku, Honda introduced some updates to the engine in an attempt to close the deficit to the other manufacturers. Alonso tested the new parts in Free Practice only, while his running was interrupted, the speed trap data showed Alonso managing as much as 15 km/h more than Vandoorne with the older engine. Both drivers had grid penalties which demoted them to the back of the grid. Both drivers profited from the chaotic race to win many places. In the end, Alonso finished in 9th, bringing home the first points of the season, after an abysmal start to the 2017 season. Vandoorne meanwhile, was also close to the points, but could not pass the Saubers in the closing stages of the race.
In Great Britain, Alonso qualified in thirteenth place, while Vandoorne made it into the final part of qualifying for the first time achieving the ninth-fastest time. However, Alonso dropped to the back of the starting grid following a 30-place grid penalty. Alonso gained some places early on in the race, but retired with a fuel pump issue. Vandoorne retained his ninth place in the start and held onto it until his pitstop. He ultimately finished 11th, falling just short of scoring points.
In Hungary, the team admitted they had taken penalties in the previous races to maximise the potential of a good result, due to the more technical circuit of the Hungaroring. The team did well in qualifying, both cars reaching Q3 for the 2nd time this season, with Alonso in P7 on his 36th birthday and Vandoorne in P8, both of which were lifted up one slot due to Renault's Nico Hülkenberg taking a penalty. The race was similarly successful, with Vandoorne finishing 10th and Alonso finishing 6th (as well as setting the fastest lap), bringing the team's first double points finish of the season and overtaking Sauber for 9th in the Constructors' Championship, now with 11 points.
Complete Formula One results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
- † – Driver failed to finish the race, but was classified as they had completed over 90% of the winner's race distance.
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- "Honda opens up on cause of F1 engine problems - Speedcafe". speedcafe.com. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
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- Haupt, Andreas. "McLaren und Alonso wieder auf Platz 13: "Besseres Ergebnis als erwartet"". auto-motor-und-sport.de. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
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- Noble, Jonathan (7 March 2017). "McLaren-Honda Formula 1 relationship feeling 'maximum strain'". Autosport. Motorsport Network. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
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- "Hamilton storms to pole for British GP". GPUpdate.net. JHED Media BV. 15 July 2017.
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Media related to McLaren MCL32 at Wikimedia Commons