The philosophy behind the F1 road car was simple - to be the finest drivers’ car ever built, or ever likely to be built...
This meant producing a car not only with outstanding performance but one versatile and usable as an everyday vehicle.
FORMULA 1 TECHNOLOGY The McLaren F1 benefits from World Championship Formula One technology and experience and is the world’s first production road car to feature an all carbon composite monocoque and body structure.
This unique material combines the low weight necessary for performance with exceptional strength to exceed demanding industry safety requirements. POWERTRAIN McLaren Automotive commissioned the BMW S70/2 engine, designed and built specifically for the F1. This 6.1 litre, quad-cam, 48-valve V12 power unit produces no less than 627 bhp and drives through a bespoke six-speed transaxle gearbox.
RADICAL DESIGN FEATURES
Central driving position
‘Ground-Plane Shear’ suspension geometry’
Intelligent brake cooling
Fan-assisted ground-effect aerodynamics
These and many more simply amplify the F1’s purity as the ultimate "drivers’ car".
Each McLaren F1, tailor-made to the owners’ personal specification, featured as standard full air conditioning, a superb ultra lightweight CD stereo system and exclusive hand-made luggage in soft leather.
In March 1998, the F1 confirmed that it is the fastest production car in the world, achieving a record top speed of 240.14mph. This was a record it held until March 2005.
This achievement was made all the more spectacular by the fact that the McLaren F1 was never conceived to achieve this record. It was merely a consequence of its unrivalled focus and supreme engineering as the ultimate drivers’ car.
Production of the McLaren F1 drew to a close in May 1998, with a total production of 100 cars built, sold and delivered to customers.
Of the 100 cars 64 were F1 road cars, five were F1 LM versions built to commemorate victory at Le Mans in 1995 and three were F1 GT road going versions of the long tail 1997 F1 GTR race car. The remaining 28 were F1 GTR race cars built for private customers competing in the FIA GT series and the 24 Heures du Mans.
For the F1, it requires a few moments thought to come to terms with the fact that only 64 of these exquisite cars will ever exist. Their rarity is guaranteed, and consequently, their value is likely to increase with time.
Most of the existing owners intend to keep their cars for their lifetime - some even intend to pass them on to their own children. But, just occasionally, an F1 becomes available through McLaren’s facilitation service, which helps to place existing F1’s with new owners.
Having secured an F1, the new owner would then expect McLaren Automotive to rebuild the car to his own specification. This would include a seat fitting to ensure that all the controls are perfectly positioned, plus any combination of repainting, retrimming and options that he requires.
With a total of 72 road cars in 12 countries around the world, McLaren have established a three-tier system for providing service support for the McLaren F1.
Primary support is provided by a local Authorised Service Centre, which carries out routine servicing. At the next level, McLaren will fly out a technician who is capable of undertaking more detailed work, either at an Authorised Service Centre, or at the customer’s premises.
Finally, in the rare case that major repairs are required, the car is returned to McLaren. There are eight McLaren Authorised Service Centres around the world. Each one has technicians who have attended a dedicated training course at McLaren’s premises in the UK, and are fully qualified to service the F1.
McLaren Customer Care headquarters in Woking, England, not only maintain the UK cars, but provide technical support and parts for all the F1’s.
McLaren Automotive has a continuing commitment to support the F1, and recently Customer Care have developed a multi-media service procedures and parts catalogue to improve the quality of information supplied to Authorised Service Centres and customers.
Not that servicing the F1 was ever an afterthought. During the design stage, provision was made to carry out "remote diagnostics".
Every F1 is supplied with a modem, which enables Customer Care to "talk" to any F1 anywhere in the world. Not only can the McLaren Automotive technicians read any logged errors in the ECU’s, they can carry out a series of diagnostic procedures on items as varied as the air-conditioning system and the fuel gauge.
This can save time and inconvenience for the customer, and is typical of McLaren’s application of technology to provide solutions. TRACK RECORD
The McLaren F1 set three incredible speed records on its way to making automotive history as the finest road car every produced.
On March 31, 1998, the McLaren F1 obliterated the production road car world speed record in XP5, achieving a new official top speed of 240.1mph/386.7kph at Germany’s VW Ehra-Lessien proving ground. Incredibly this was a record the F1 held for 7 years, until March 2005.
On December 16th 1998 the same McLaren F1, driven by Peter Taylor, an independent test and development engineer broke the high-speed circuit record at MIRA averaging 168mph round the 2.82 mile banked circuit with a maximum speed of 196.2mph.
In March 1999 BBC’s Top Gear, in conjunction with McLaren Automotive, set a new UK closed circuit record in aid of the Comic Relief charity. Driven by Tiff Needell XP5 once again sensationally set the fastest lap record of a British circuit averaging 195.3mph round the 2-mile banked circuit at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.
This was the third proving ground record set by the McLaren F1, a phenomenal achievement by a truly phenomenal road car.
Full cabin air conditioning
SeKurit electric defrost/ demist windscreen and side glass
What most find weird about this car is the seating arrangement. Most exotic cars, because of their mid-engine configuration, have their pedals skewed toward the center of the car to accommodate the intrusion of the front wheels. Gordon Murray wanted none of that.
Whereas most exotics are two-seaters, the McLaren seats three. The driver sits in the center with two passenger seats set back from the driver’s seat on either side. This gives the driver a symmetric view for right and left turns and makes room for not one, but two extra seats. Hey, it’s the world’s most practical super car.
The McLaren F1 weighs only 1290 kg (2840 lb) largely because of its composite construction, but also because it has no power steering, ABS, or even power brakes. The car is so light and so precise that it doesn’t need any of these.
There is a small, computer controlled rear flap that pops up under heavy braking to increase traction and expose the brake cooling ducts, however, which can also be manually raised.
One thing that the McLaren does have is one hell of an engine. Built by BMW, it cranks out 468 kW (627 bhp) at 7400 rpm, has 6.1 liters of displacement, and 48 valves. The construction follows race car practice, as the engine is bolted to the rear suspension, and is a stressed member of the chassis. It is force fed air through the duct above the windshield, and spits it out through those expensive headers and dual twin tailpipes.
The catalysts and mufflers generate immense heat and are shielded from the bodywork by nothing less than gold plated foil! Speaking of the bodywork, it’s pretty impressive looking. The F1’s body reminds one of a 1960s GT racer. It’s aggressive and purposeful looking, with its long wheelbase, short overhangs, and wide stance. It is a first-rate head turner, though maybe not quite as much as a Lamborghini or Ferrari.
With a 627 bhp mid-mounted V12 pushing only 2840 lb of car, the McLaren F1 goes from zero to sixty in an amazing 3.1 seconds! It churns to 100 in the low 7 second range, and quarters in 11.6 seconds at 125 mph. The BMW motor keeps right on winding, and the speedometer needle seems to move almost as fast as the tachometer’s! This car can pull off 150 mph like it’s nothing, and it still has plenty of revs. The first five of its six gears are closely spaced, for rapid acceleration. They get you from 0 to 180 mph. Then 6th has to take the long haul from there all the way to the claimed 231 mph top speed.
McLaren Automotive goes to extraordinary lengths to develop road cars that are the best in the world.
We are completely focused on offering unsurpassed levels of dynamic performance, transferring know-how and knowledge directly from the race-track to the road.
This means we use many of the same development tools as the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team, such as simulation, structural analysis, and aerodynamics. We also bring advanced technologies from Formula 1 such as carbon fibre structures, control systems and tyre technology.
McLaren Automotive can also use technologies which are banned from Formula 1 and adapt them to provide the greatest performance benefits without the restrictions placed on Formula 1 cars.
The use of these latest technologies, systems and processes makes a McLaren road car an uncompromised vehicle that directly translates Formula 1 technology to the road.
McLaren prides itself on producing extremely high performance vehicles which apply the lessons learnt in racing to road cars. This means that unlike most road cars McLaren aims to produce cars with substantial levels of downforce without excessive drag. It is essential that the downforce is distributed in a balanced manner with the centre of pressure located behind the centre of gravity.
The control of the centre of pressure is particularly difficult during braking/acceleration as the car pitches with the effects of weight transfer. McLaren are unique in the adoption of an airbrake which reduces the migration of the centre of pressure under braking. The algorithm for this device receives inputs of both vehicle speed and brake pressure, before deciding whether to deploy. At the extreme deployment angle large amounts of both drag and downforce are produced. The downforce is biased towards the rear and hence counteracts the effects of both front weight transfer and forward centre of pressure migration. The extra drag is a useful by-product in helping to slow the vehicle.
New car development involves the production of several scale wind tunnel models. The models are tested at a Formula One rolling road wind tunnel which enables accurate simulation of under body air flow. The vehicle ride height can be modified during tunnel runs so that any modifications are assessed through the full suite of anticipated vehicle attitudes. In some instances a design which gives good downforce values may be rejected because the downforce value varies too widely as the pitch of the vehicle changes. Internal air flow modelling is another important feature of the wind tunnel model design. By careful selection of porous media, it is possible to get an accurate representation of vehicle radiators etc. This then enables early estimates of a vehicles cooling capability.
Tunnel work is enhanced by the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD); this enables the mechanisms of drag and downforce to be more fully understood and hence promotes innovative design solutions. The vehicle is placed in a virtual wind tunnel with graphical outputs of air flow vectors and total pressure plots (amongst other options). The flow visualisation possible with these techniques, especially in the area of diffuser development is simply not achievable with traditional tunnel testing on its own.
The results of all this work are verified on the test track. Top speed runs validate the predicted drag coefficient, while high speed handling and the measurement of forces through the vehicles spring platforms, enable downforce predictions to be checked. By careful integration of the styling and development process, McLaren operate a concurrent approach to achieving its aesthetic and technical targets. THE AIRBRAKE Moveable aerodynamic devices have been banned in Formula 1 since 1969. No such regulations exist for road cars, meaning McLaren is able to exploit all the innovation that would otherwise appear on its Formula 1 car on its road cars. The airbrake is one such example.
The McLaren F1 featured such a “Brake and Balance ‘Foil” to increase base-suction at the rear to generate additional downforce and more importantly, control the aerodynamic centre of pressure. Well established as a McLaren feature, the SLR also features a similar device.
In the SLR, if the driver steps heavily on the brake pedal, the rear spoiler rises to an angle of 65 degrees, boosting the braking effect by controlling the centre of pressure, thus maintaining optimum aerodynamic balance and stability at the high body pitch angles that 1g braking produces.
ANALYSIS Structural analysis is an integral part of McLaren Automotive’s approach to engineering an exceptionally strong, safe and lightweight body structure for our road cars.
Using the same computer analysis and simulation tools as the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team we prove out the performance of the vehicle while it is still being designed. This allows components to be tested and optimised in a virtual environment long before they are assembled in the first prototype vehicle.
Analysis activities range from simple stress calculations on individual parts to simulating a range of controlled crash tests and object collisions on full cars to predict occupant safety. Analysis relies heavily on ‘finite element’ theory, aligning millions of individual mathematical equations into a huge matrix that represents the structural properties of the car, essentially a digital prototype of the vehicle.
Given the extensive use of carbon-fibre and other advanced composites in a McLaren road car these analysis tools help engineer a structure that maximises occupant protection, enhances vehicle dynamics, and reduces noise and vibration characteristics.
The vehicle body and its underlying structure are fundamental to the class-leading characteristics of a McLaren. Advanced composite materials, sophisticated development tools, novel processes and world-class engineering skills are blended to create a unique combination of structural performance, quality and durability in our road cars.
CARBON FIBRE SAFETY CELL At the heart of a McLaren road car is a carbon-fibre tub. Just like the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 cars this structure offers a rigid safety cell in which the driver sits. It also offers superior torsional stiffness to improve handling, in addition to being extremely light and strong.
Body engineers work very closely with the analysis department to optimise the design and material specification of the carbon fibre tub, maximising body stiffness and strength within the vehicle package.
Key to this optimisation is consideration of the manufacturing and assembly processes involved, as a highly stable and repeatable process allows the performance of materials to be predicted very accurately.
BODY PANELS Similarly engineers work closely with styling to ensure the form and construction of body panels are compatible with the manufacturing processes to be used.
McLaren Automotive employs advanced composite materials for the body panels of its road cars to minimise mass, optimum stiffness and achieve a high-quality surface finish throughout the life of the car. In this area McLaren Automotive has developed innovative processes for the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren to reduce the ‘weave’ effect of painted carbon fibre body panel. DOORS When designing the body of a McLaren road car our engineers must consider many aspects of the vehicle, including styling, sealing, safety, quality and accessibility.
The dihedral doors of a McLaren road car for example not only provide optimum vehicle access, in terms of ingress and egress, but also enhance the visual presence of the vehicle. To function correctly the door must be rigid and durable, seal perfectly and fit the rest of the vehicle body highly accurately.
Advanced composite materials are again optimised using finite element simulation, and computational dimensional management tools enable production tolerances to be precisely specified.
DEVELOPMENT Once the vehicle concept and package work is complete, detailed specifications, design and analysis leads to design release for the first prototype cars.
McLaren Automotive uses advanced rapid prototyping and tooling methods from the world of the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team to produce parts extremely quickly. This speed of response enables design, testing and product lead times to be improved benefiting the development program timing.
Each part is rigorously tested not just in terms of its performance and durability but its quality and ease of assembly, to ensure that every product which leaves the McLaren Technology Centre is accurately manufactured to meet the original design specification.
The class-leading ride and handling of a McLaren road car is achieved through an integrated approach to engineering the chassis system of the vehicle, including the front and rear suspension, wheels, tyres, steering & brake system.
SUSPENSION The suspension system of a McLaren road car is critical to its superior cornering performance. The suspension is carefully designed to restrict roll centre migration and to optimally control the camber and toe of each wheel under all conditions.
The centre of gravity of the car is kept as low as possible, like a racing car, and this helps to limit the roll and pitch of the car in order to provide the best possible body control and maximum grip.
SIMULATION With an equal emphasis placed on both primary and secondary ride, the latest simulation software, tools & techniques from Formula 1 are used during the initial concept phase to allow a number of different suspension hard-points and bush compliances to be evaluated before the optimal setup is determined.
MATERIALS The majority of suspension components are then custom designed using the lightest, strongest materials and production processes available.
This commitment to reducing unsprung weight also extends to the wheels which are constructed using lightweight materials and are engineered to give the best compromise between stiffness and weight. BRAKING SYSTEM Similarly the brake system on a McLaren road car is engineered to be as light and efficient as possible.
McLaren Automotive employs know-how developed direct from the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team using the latest carbon matrix ceramic (CMC) brake discs to improve braking performance and reduce both overall stopping distances and brake fade. Weighing around 40% less than the equivalent cast iron rotors these brakes are also remarkably durable. HANDLING & CONTROL As a driver focused car a McLaren provides unsurpassed levels of feedback from the road to the driver, improving the control and driveability of the vehicle.
The steering system is engineered to ensure the steering ratio is ideal for performance driving; castor, scrub radius and Ackermann are optimised.
Similarly the construction and compound of the tyres on a McLaren road car, which are unique to the vehicle, are optimised to ensure consistent handling in both dry and wet conditions.
Handling, control and feedback are equally not restricted by the latest electronic safety systems, such as ABS and ESP. McLaren Automotive ensures its road cars possess the highest levels of safety without intruding on the driving experience and allowing the driver to remain fully involved.
A McLaren sports car is designed to offer the customer unrivalled performance, handling and style. To succeed in this mission, not only must all vehicle components and systems function efficiently, but support the whole vehicle mechanical, aerodynamic and visual aspirations.
All McLaren vehicles are designed to achieve a series of performance targets which require careful specification of the aerodynamics, weight and weight distribution, ensuring that engine power and tyre grip levels are used to deliver performance rather than overcome inefficiencies in vehicle design. VEHICLE PACKAGE & LAYOUT The conceptual vehicle layout and package controls the design at a whole vehicle level, to deliver a vehicle concept that meets the performance and market requirements.
Virtual modelling tools are employed to generate a concept package of the vehicle with all major components, dimensions and masses positioned and tracked. This 3 dimensional layout of the car enables key vehicle dimensions such as wheelbase and wheel tracks to be optimised and maintained throughout the concept development.
Similarly, the major vehicle systems are packaged according to their functional requirements enabling the whole vehicle mass properties (centre of gravity and polar moment of inertia) to be established and optimised, by employing this data to simulate the vehicle’s performance on the road and race track.
OCCUPANT PACKAGE & ERGONOMICS Driver packaging is one of the key considerations at the early concept stage. Special attention is paid to visibility and seating position, as well as the position of primary driving controls such as the seat, steering wheel and pedals.
Physical models and seating bucks are built and tested by people of all sizes as well as professional racing drivers to ensure the driving position, visibility and environment is suited to the vehicle’s dynamic ability.
AERODYNAMIC INTEGRATION The vehicle package data is used to drive the aerodynamic and styling programmes. The aerodynamic properties of a high performance vehicle are fundamental in the McLaren Automotive objective of providing performance with safety.
As well as ensuring the lift (downforce) and drag co-efficient values are achieved, cooling requirements for engine, transmission and brakes must also be met. Simultaneous package, aerodynamic and styling development ensures aesthetic integration of form with aerodynamic and mechanical function.
During its development a McLaren road car is subjected to extremes of climate, road surface and manoeuvre.
It spends many hours at maximum speed, and thousands of kilometres at racetracks to push the car to its limits.
Every single area and component of the vehicle is tested in all conditions all over the world to ensure the vehicle meets the exacting durability standards that a McLaren road car is renowned for.
This testing starts at the beginning of the development process before any prototype vehicle exists, using the same simulation and virtual processes as the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team.
With targets achieved virtually, prototype vehicles are carefully assembled by highly skilled technicians, drawing upon their previous McLaren Formula 1 and GT race car experience. The cars are then ready for a rigorous development program taking in the most demanding and challenging locations around the world.
DEATH VALLEY , USA One of the fiercest locations in the world, where it reaches over 50 ºC. Here, surrounded by a vast flat shimmering expanse of dust, and high rock faces in the distance, black McLaren prototypes are pushed to their limits.
With the body panels reaching over 100 ºC this is an extreme test of the vehicle’s cooling system, with the fans and air-conditioning systems made to work incredibly hard.
Taking the long climb out of the valley the prototypes are deliberately driven at very low speeds to starve the vehicle of airflow and cause the fluid temperatures to rise.
At the end of the climb, with ambient temperature at around 40 ºC, the cars are immediately parked and left to bake under the sun. All this time, hundreds of sensors are measuring the temperatures of air, fluids, surfaces and components to ensure the vehicle meets McLaren’s stringent engineering requirements.
ARJEPLOG, SWEDEN At the other end of the scale, and surrounded by a fine powder of snow, McLaren prototypes are subject to temperatures of -20 ºC.
Cars are left to stand in the freezing cold for 15 hours before all of the functions of the car are assessed, from the force required to open a door, to the time taken for the engine to start.
On the road the cars are subject to arduously long road-trips. The car undergoes many hours of dynamic performance development using test-tracks ground into frozen lakes. NARDO, ITALY With the stunning vista of the Mediterranean Sea, olive groves and vineyards this is one of the few places in the world you can press the McLaren’s accelerator pedal to the floor and leave it there, for a whole tank of fuel.
This test track is a perfect circle, over 12km per lap, and banked so that the car could continue around the circuit at 240km/h with no hands on the wheel. Here McLaren prototypes are subject to extreme engine and brake testing, undergoing a series of aggressive accelerations from standstill to top speed, before being braked hard to a halt.
NÜRBURGRING NORDSCHLEIFE, GERMANY This legendary circuit is the toughest and most demanding racetrack in the world. At over 20km per lap, including a huge straight, series of fast sweeping curves, tight corners, jumps, crests, compressions, bumps and kerbs, McLaren Automotive’s team of top professional racing drivers push the prototypes to their limits.
The Nürburgring represents a massive overall test of a car’s durability and dynamics, and one very relevant for a McLaren road car, as the purest driving experience. The engine is never far from the limit, the throttle is rarely off the floor, and the tyres scream in submission.
McLaren Automotive aims to produce cars that provide the ultimate driving experience.
Not only are they stylish, featuring the latest technology and are extremely safe, but their dynamic characteristics set them apart from the competition.
McLaren Automotive’s technical expertise in the areas of weight and weight distribution, chassis and component stiffness, aerodynamics, steering and suspension geometry, brake performance, tyre characteristics, electronic systems calibration and engine and transmission design combine to ensure the dynamic performance of a McLaren road car has the ultimate handling balance and performance.
RIDE & HANDLING A McLaren road car aims to set the class standard for ride quality while at the same time exceeding all expectations in terms of cornering performance.
This performance is systematically developed so that even a Formula 1 driver is able to derive great satisfaction from driving a McLaren road car on the limit, while being extremely accessible to all drivers allowing them to achieve their own personal potential with a safe but rewarding drive.
The superior performance of a McLaren is matched by its superior safety, at high speed and whilst cornering, and stability over uneven road surfaces and under heavy braking. To achieve this, a McLaren road car has excellent body pitch and roll control ensuring good grip levels on turn in to a corner, with a forgiving, neutral cornering balance consistent throughout the turn.
Controlled traction allows the maximum performance of the engine to be exploited while steering and pedal feel give the driver racing car levels of control and precision, without requiring racing driver levels of skill.
However the performance of a McLaren does not compromise its ride characteristics. Detailed suspension development, incorporating the latest damper and tyre technologies, and a focus on NVH characteristics combine to provide unsurpassed levels of ride quality for a mid-engined supercar.
The ‘form follows function’ design philosophy of the exterior of a McLaren road car continues inside to create a driver focused interior. FUNCTION The interior architecture has both an aesthetic and ergonomic purpose communicating intelligence and simplicity.
This clarity of purpose is centred on an optimum occupant package that offers ergonomic comfort, unsurpassed levels of visibility and immediacy of both primary and secondary controls.
Careful consideration of steering wheel positioning and adjustability range, controls and switchgear ensures the driver has everything immediately to hand, both on when on the road and the racetrack.
Such careful attention to occupant package and visibility improves the perception of space, so the cabin feels open and accommodating.
FORM & MATERIALS The interior of a McLaren road car features high quality materials and an unsurpassed level of workmanship.
A functional atmosphere is created by technology on show, such as the carbon fibre structure, and the use of technical materials and real metals. This visual link to the world of Formula 1 gives an impression of function and ergonomic efficiency.
This continues with seats that are styled for comfort and lightweight with the minimal thickness and padding necessary.
>Similarly a small-diameter sports steering wheel takes the function and form from the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 race cars, with a simple, clear and function design for the instruments, pedals and other primary controls.