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The interim F1 McLaren that unexpectedly challenged Ferrari



For two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and long-time Formula 1 tester Alex Woods, the question of choosing a favorite car doesn’t depend on whether he’s ever raced it or tested it. Instead, the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chose the McLaren MP4-17D for a simpler reason, the machine that narrowly missed out on the F1 World Championship with Kimi Raikkonen in 2003.

“I just thought, ‘I’m pushing it to the limit in every situation’—empty (tank), light, alone, against the competition,” Wurz said. “And the 17D is the most balanced, happiest and fastest car to drive.”

The original MP4-17 appeared in 2002, where it was blown away by Ferrari’s F2002 along with the rest of the field. Newey’s describes the first car to result from the matrix structure implemented by Martin Whitmarsh after Adrian Newey narrowly defected to Jaguar the year before how to build a car The autobiography was “a somewhat clumsy design, certainly not one of my best”, with David Coulthard’s triumph in Monaco the only noteworthy result. There was little sign that McLaren would mount a convincing title challenge with an evolution of the same car in 2003.

In fact, McLaren felt it would take a big step to challenge Ferrari, and therefore fully backed Newey’s “ambitious” new MP4-18. But despite its promising wind tunnel data, the infamous machine proved to be aerodynamically unstable in testing and was plagued by excessive engine vibration and cooling issues. Such was the problem with it that the car was never considered competitive enough, as McLaren instead stuck with the 17D throughout the 2003 campaign.

Wurz, who joined McLaren after losing his seat at Benetton as a tester for the 2001 season, did a big test drive in the MP4-18 at Jerez and said it was “entirely related to what makes the 17D so special”. on the contrary”.

“It’s definitely the least popular,” he said, reflecting on a car that formed the basis of an uncompetitive 2004 MP4-19A, “actually 18 cars with different badges,” Newey said.

“I respect speed, I’ve had shunts in my life, but I’ve never been really scared. But at 18 I was scared because things kept breaking and you had big shunts.”

The successor to the MP4-17 never lived up to expectations, forcing McLaren to return to an updated version of the old car in 2003

The successor to the MP4-17 never lived up to expectations, forcing McLaren to return to an updated version of the old car in 2003

Photo by Lorenzo Bellanca/ motorsport pictures

Knowing the new car wouldn’t be ready before the season started, McLaren updated the existing MP4-17 to good effect with a new front suspension kit, aerodynamic revisions and gearbox improvements. Wurz feels completely at home with the car.

“The 17D is a car, an extension of myself,” he said. “Whatever the circuit, whatever the conditions, it always does what the brain wants.

“I can’t wait to drive it because I know from the outside circle how to let it slide, how not to let it slide, how to correct it, fast corners, slow corners. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, water skiing, it feels like me extension on nearly every track.”

The result came quickly at the Grand Prix weekend as well, as it won the first two races of 2003. Coulthard inherited Australia’s season opener win after Juan Pablo Montoya’s Williams spun, while Raikkonen Malaysia broke his duck by a stunning 39 seconds.

“We have achieved so many lap records in the testing of this car and I am very proud because I have been instrumental in the development of this car” alex woods

Either of them could have won in Brazil – Coulthard would likely have finished the race as he was stopped from the lead shortly before the red flag, while Raikkonen was initially considered victorious despite a slight slip Lost the lead to Giancarlo Fisichella before his Jordan team won the protest.

Ferrari maestro Michael Schumacher’s weaker-than-expected start to the season meant Raikkonen led the points lead when the ringside landed in Montreal in round seven. Whitmarsh later admitted that work on the flawed MP4-18 for the opening third of the season had affected the continued development of the MP4-17D if Raikkonen’s championship against Schumacher and Montoya For the challenge to persist, development needs to accelerate.

It did work, as Raikkonen was in the chase until the final round, and despite having to start from behind twice in the new single-pole qualifying, he ended up just two points behind Schumacher — he recovered to sixth at the Canadian Grand Prix, suddenly layered on the long straight, but was out when he couldn’t avoid the stalled Jaguars of Spain’s Antonio Pizonia — and was out on the pit lane in Melbourne. A speeding free throw forfeited a possible win.

Raikkonen misses 2003 F1 world title by two points in McLaren MP4/17D

Raikkonen misses 2003 F1 world title by two points in McLaren MP4/17D

Photograph: Andre Vor/Sutton Images

The other begged at the Nürburgring, with Raikkonen leading until his Mercedes engine stalled. Newey cites this as a key factor in McLaren’s failure in his book, attributing it to Mario Illion, technical director of Mercedes engine maker Ilmo, at partner and managing director Paul Morgan ‘completely overwrought’ after death in plane accident

“The engine suffered as a result and our performance was lower than that of Ferrari and BMW,” Newey wrote. “To make matters worse, reliability becomes even more important.”

This matches Wurz’s recollection: “They ran out of spare parts for the 17D engine,” he said.

Still, the Austrian has fond memories of his time as part of McLaren’s test setup and is not bitter that he never got the 17D work rewarded for himself.

“We test every week,” said Wurz, who was on the podium in F1 for the first time since Silverstone in 1997 and his only time at Imola for McLaren in 2005. , when he replaced the team’s injured new signing Montoya. “We traveled all over Europe and even went outside of Europe in some tests.

“We’ve achieved so many lap records with this car and I’m very proud because I was instrumental in the development of this car. It’s really my favorite in the long run. car.”

In fact, the MP4-20 he drove to finish fourth in the road race at Imola – before Jenson Button was disqualified for third after inspectors found his BAR illegal drop tank – was the Another car in Karen’s challenge for the title, as Raikkonen ultimately lost out to Renault’s Fernando Alonso. But for Wurz, it’s not in the same class as the MP4-17D.

“It’s a nice car, but it’s still flawed in terms of setup,” Wurz said of the MP4-20. “It was moody on some tracks; it didn’t open up the tires very well when the tires were cold. Some projects were okay, but not as good as the 17D.”

Wurz thinks the MP4-20 is a close match for the MP4-17D on his all-time list

Wurz thinks the MP4-20 is a close match for the MP4-17D on his all-time list

Photography: LAT Photographic

The only car that comes close, he reckons, is the Peugeot 908 LMP1, which he won Le Mans for the second time in 2009, 13 years after his breakthrough as a rookie in 1996. Wurz said he conducted extensive tire testing with Michelin “with the car and the tire as one unit”. “The Michelin driving style fits perfectly with my natural driving style” is also helpful.

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“I say Peugeot before the 2014 Toyota (TS040) because we won with that car,” he said of a race he was canceled due to electrical problems related to a melted wire loom. “With the Toyota, I remember Le Mans in ’14, when I started the race and built the lead super fast because the balance was perfect that day. And a super car to drive.

“But I would mention the Peugeot because in the end we won races with it and it was just an extension of (me). Whatever I wanted to do, it did. But not as refined as the 17D.”

Peugeot's 908 LMP1 misses out on Wurz's favorite car

Peugeot’s 908 LMP1 misses out on Wurz’s favorite car

Photography: Ed Hartley


Vandoorne to drive Aston Martin F1 car in Pirelli tyre test at Spa




Aston reserve driver Vandoorne will share driving duties with team principal Lance Stroll, while Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will each drive a day for McLaren.

It will be the Belgian’s first time driving an active F1 car on track since December 2020 when he represented Mercedes in Abu Dhabi testing.

While the Spa test will focus on Pirelli’s no-carpet tyres, it will give Vandoorne a valuable opportunity to sample the 2023 car, helping him correlate with Aston Martin’s simulator work.

If either Stroll or Fernando Alonso were unwell at any point for the rest of the season, his life would also be made easier.

The 31-year-old shared the Aston substitute with defending Formula Two champion Felipe Drugovich, and the two took turns on call.

Dubovic drove the AMR23 for two days during the Bahrain test in February, when Stroll was not present, and he had the opportunity to test drive the AMR23. Since then, the Brazilian has continued to rack up more miles in private testing of the 2021 car.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

As well as his role at Aston, Vandoorne is one of McLaren’s backup drivers and his performance at Spa will also make it easier for him to step into the MCL60 should the need arise.

As well as giving him a general feel for downforce levels for 2023, the two cars share the Mercedes powerplant and thus have similar settings on their respective steering wheels.

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Vandoorne made his F1 debut for McLaren in Bahrain in 2016, replacing current Aston team-mate Alonso.

He then completed two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first with Honda power and the second with Renault. He finished 16th at the World Championships in both seasons, with a best finish of seventh.

He was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2018, but has since rebuilt his career in Formula E, winning the 2021-22 championship for Mercedes and serving as an F1 substitute.

He currently drives for the DS Penske Formula E team and is also a substitute for the Peugeot WEC team.

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McLaren “true contenders” for F1 best of the rest tag




McLaren has only scored one point after three rounds in 2023 as it struggles to find the car competitive.

But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have seen plenty of upgrades in recent races, allowing the former to finish second in a row, while Piastri has finished in the top five in each of his past two races.

Despite being 136 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Russell believes McLaren is a real threat for the remainder of the race behind leaders Red Bull.

“Obviously they’re a real contender for second fastest team,” Russell said of Woking.

“Oddly enough, Aston Martin was clearly second at the start of the year.

“And they don’t seem to be that competitive now. Ferrari haven’t made much progress. McLaren has made huge progress.

“So without McLaren we’d be very, very happy with the progress we’ve made. Leading the midfield, widening the gap and closing in on Red Bull.

“McLaren has just fully embraced it. But that makes you optimistic that bigger strides are possible.

“I believe in my team. I think it gives us the confidence and optimism to take this step towards Red Bull.

“We’re not too focused on McLaren, Aston or Ferrari. We’re focused on Red Bull. We’re trying to make that big step.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

Russell fought his way back from 18th on the grid at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, jumping to sixth at the checkered flag after Mercedes strategists told him 11th was his favorite.

Russell was pleased with the final result, but felt it was “proof” of a “missed opportunity” for Hungary.

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“The strategy tells me that if we maximize everything, the P11 is the most realistic, the P7 is the most realistic,” Russell told Autosport.

“Sixth place without a safety car, without a VSC, it’s a really great result.

“But it also proved that this weekend could be a missed opportunity. I believe I could have gone there with Lewis yesterday, it’s one of my favorite circuits and the car always does well here.

“When you have two cars out there, fighting for second gives you more options, and Lewis is also very strong. If things turned out a little differently, he would also be P2.

“So as a missed opportunity we will learn from it. But the positive side is we are leading Aston and Ferrari.”

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Top speed, car sizes, race weekends and more compared




Formula 1 has relied on junior classes to develop the next generation of drivers, and its teams are eager to snag their brightest talent.

The ‘old’ Formula 2 car was a ruleset rather than its own separate entity, sometimes sharing the grid with F1, and later rule changes made the two cars separate championships.

The second class was renamed the F3000 in 1985 as the series switched to a naturally aspirated engine formula and extended the life of the earlier Cosworth DFV lineage. Throughout the life of the F3000, different engine and chassis suppliers came and went, with companies including Reynard, Lola, Ralt and March among them, all producing cars before the championship became a single specification.

When the F3000 championship began to fade due to declining team interest and declining track quality, the second level of racing was reborn in 2005. Bernie Ecclestone tried to bring the junior championship to F1’s bottom line and, along with Flavio Briatore and Bruno Michel, helped build the GP2 series.

GP2 became the FIA ​​Formula Two Championship in 2017, but many key hallmarks of GP2’s early series have stood the test of time. The GP3 series, a third-tier category designed to compete with the myriad Formula 3 championships around it, was added to the F1 Act in 2010 and became FIA ​​Formula 3 in 2019.

There are major differences in the way F2 is run compared to F1, there are subtle changes in form and there are big differences in the overall performance of the cars. The following are the key areas of comparison between F1 and F2.

F1 vs. F2 – key differences


Formula 1

Formula Two

top speed

220+ mph

208 mph

Minimum weight including driver

798 kg

788 kg




engine size

1.6 liter V6

3.4 liter V6

Approximate Power

1,000 horsepower

620 hp

car size

5.63m x 2m x 0.95m

5.22m x 1.9m x 1.09m

tire size

18 inches

18 inches

game every weekend

One (two for sprint weekends)

Two (one sprint, one feature)

game length

305 km/190 miles

Sprint – 120 km/74.5 miles

Features – 170 km/105.6 miles






twenty two

2023 Pole Times – Red Bull Ring

1 point 04.391

1 meter 14,643

2023 Pole Times – Monaco

1 meter 11.365

1 meter 21.053

2023 Pole Times – Silverstone

1 meter 26.720

1 meter 39,832

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

What is the difference between F1 and F2 racing?

In F1, each team designs its own chassis according to a set of well-defined technical regulations laid down by the FIA. For the 2022 ruleset, the FIA ​​has updated the wording of the rules to better define the bounding box within which bodies can be developed and build a system more in line with the proliferation of available CAD products.

It features a range of safety systems such as a roll cage, halo and anti-intrusion panels mounted around the monocoque. There are also anti-collision structures on the side, front and rear of the car to minimize the impact on the driver in the car.

F2 is a single-spec series with all teams using the Dallara F2 2018 model. The car and driver must weigh a minimum of 788kg and feature F1 standard safety features such as the aforementioned crash structures and halos. Use only parts supplied by Dallara, Hewland or sold by F2 promoters.

F2 cars use floor venturi tunnels, which F1 adopts in 2022, 40 years after banning ground-effect aerodynamics. These designs aren’t as extreme as those in F1, but they work on the same principle, and the car is also enhanced with front and rear wings to create downforce. Like F1, F2 cars are fitted with a Drag Reduction System (DRS), which operates on the same parameters as its parent series.

While F1 cars typically reach speeds in excess of 220 mph during a race, with DRS switched on, an F2 car could theoretically hit 208 mph at full low downforce.

What is the difference between F1 and F2 tires?

Pirelli supplies all championships on the official F1 ladder, and F2 and F3 also use the Italian company’s rubber.

F2 started using 18-inch tires in 2020, two years before entering F1. F2 tires are slightly narrower than F1 tires and generally have less grip because of the naturally lower speeds of the junior series cars.

There are four dry-weather tire compounds for the F2: hard, medium, soft and supersoft – with the first three using the same white, yellow and red color coding as the F1. Extra soft textures are indicated by purple text on the side walls. Each car is supplied with five sets of dry weather tires per wheel, consisting of two of the prescribed compounds, with a set of “premium” tires to be returned after practice. Three sets of wet tires are also available – the F2 has no intermediate compound.

Tire blankets are banned in F2, meaning drivers must warm up their tires naturally. This often creates a larger offset during the pit stops, with drivers leaving the pits vulnerable to those who have already completed laps in the new group.

The “primary” and “option” compounds (harder tires are the main tires and softer tires are the options) must be used during featured races, and pit stops are required to replace them. Tire parking is allowed during a sprint, but not mandatory. Since only two dry compounds are used each weekend, Pirelli and F2 decide which tire to use before the weekend. There may be a single step in the compound (for example, medium and soft), or there may be a larger step for greater excursions (for example, medium and extra soft).

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

Photography: Sutton Images

What is the difference between F1 and F2 powertrains?

F1 has used a turbo-hybrid system since 2014, with a turbocharger and a motor-generator set on the rear axle to form a hybrid package. The internal combustion engine is a 1.6-liter V6. By 2022, F1 engines run on E10 fuel, where 10% of the fuel composition consists of combustibles of biosourced origin.

The MGU-K in an F1 car can produce up to 160bhp for a total power output of around 1000bhp. Figures for F1’s current four powertrain manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Powertrain) vary but are all believed to have efficiencies in excess of 50%.

F2’s single-spec powertrain is produced by French manufacturer Mecachrome, which briefly participated in F1 in 1998 and 1999, and took over Renault’s engine program. The Mecachrome unit was a 3.4-litre V6 engine, virtually the same one used in the F3, but with a modified turbocharger from Van der Lee. It produces around 620bhp and is driven by a six-speed Hewland gearbox.

To ensure fairness in powertrain supply, Mecachrome units are randomly assigned to teams, as there may be minor differences in overall power output.

F2 is currently being used as a test bed to assist F1 in developing more sustainable fuel, using Aramco-produced fuel with 55% of its content from sustainable bio-sources, with the aim of increasing this figure to 100% by 2026/27. The Saudi oil brand replaced longtime supplier Elf as the sole producer of the F2 fuel.

How much does F1 cost compared to F2?

In recent years, Formula 1 has been constrained by a cost cap of about $135 million through 2023, with some minor adjustments for inflation and other ancillary costs. The cost cap covers most development and operating costs, but excludes driver salaries, salaries of the team’s three highest-paid employees, travel costs and marketing expenses. As Red Bull found out in 2022, violating this cap carries a range of penalties depending on the extent of the overrun.

The bulk of this budget comes from the FIA’s prize money, investment and sponsorship mix. Some teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, are self-sufficient in terms of bonuses and sponsors and do not require direct input from their ownership structures.

F2 teams have much smaller budgets, and with the series’ fairly limited reach, teams will rarely start the season with a full sponsor portfolio ready to fund every race. As such, drivers should pay for their rides through their own sponsors or a driver academy.

Depending on the team, the budget of an F2 driver can vary from 2 million to 3 million euros, and can even exceed this budget to get a seat in a better team. To keep costs down, F2 limited the number of employees working on each car on race weekends and designed the cars to be relatively cheap. A team can buy a complete F2 car, without the engine, for around 500,000 euros.

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

How do drivers get from F2 to F1?

To compete in F2, drivers must hold an A or B international FIA license. They cannot conduct private tests on F2 machines, only the group tests offered by the series. There are also restrictions on the single-seater cars that drivers can test in private, and if a driver is double-duty in another category, they must commit to racing in F2 in the event of any conflict.

Depending on a driver’s final standing at the end of the F2 season, they may receive Superlicense points to help qualify for F1. To obtain a super license to compete in F1, a driver needs to earn 40 points.

The distribution of Super License points is:

end of season position

SL points

first place


second place


third place


fourth place


the fifth place


sixth place


Number 7


number 8




No. 10


These can be applied cumulatively over the course of three seasons.

F1 VS F2 weekend format

F1 has been running in the same basic format for years, with FP1 and FP2 taking place on Fridays, each one hour long. FP3 races are also one hour long and take place on the Saturday before the three-stage qualifying format in place since 2006. F1 races must be at least 305 kilometers in length (excluding Monaco) and must not exceed two hours in duration, with a three-hour window if any red flags are raised.

However, sprint weekends are different and that changes for 2023. The only practice session kicked off with Friday’s race, followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Sprint qualifying and the race are both held on Saturdays, with 2023 seeing six sprint weekends for added variety.

F2 has a practice session lasting 45 minutes on Friday, with a half-hour qualifying session later in the day. It’s effectively a time trial and drivers just need to maintain the fastest lap at the end of the race to secure pole for Sunday’s race.

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

The sprint race takes place on Saturday, using the same grid as qualifying, but with the top ten swapped. The number of laps “equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 120 km (100 km in Monaco)”, according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, the score is finally dropped to eighth place, and the fastest lap points are awarded to the top 10 competitors.

The F2 weekend’s featured race “should be equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 170km (140km in Monaco, 160km in Budapest)”. It features mandatory pit stops where drivers must use both primary and optional compounds during the race. If a driver pits before completing the sixth lap, the mandatory stop does not count. This information is also not recorded if a driver stops under the Virtual Safety Car unless they are already in the pits when the VSC is triggered.

F2 attempted three weekend races in 2021, but the practice was generally unpopular and canceled for 2022 due to gaps left on the calendar. Prior to this, the main race was held on Saturday, and the starting position of the sprint race was determined by the results and the reversal of the top eight.

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