CAR tech: how much F1 is in the McLaren P1?

Published: 06 August 2013

We’re forever told racing tech makes for better road cars, but is that true, even in the case of the £866,000 McLaren P1? CAR tech looks at the similarities between Jenson Button’s weekend racer and McLaren’s hybrid supercar:

Gives you wings

A Formula One car wins or loses by its aero package – and the P1’s a true aero car with a mighty set-up. It has the highest amount of downforce of any road car on sale – so you couldn’t get closer to F1 with number plates if you tried. In ‘Race’, the sharpest of the three drive modes, there’s a massive 600kg on the active rear wing (active aero is banned in F1), which works with the rear-diffuser as well as the front wing that ‘spills’ air to limit downforce to one tonne.

The double-element rear wing is a masterpiece in its own right. It sits flush with the bodywork, its angle adjusting to increase downforce as the P1 ups its pace. A DRS (Drag Reduction System) can be activated by a button on the steering wheel – just like in F1  – to flatten the wing and reduce drag by 23%. Ahead of the front wheels, underbody flaps reduce lift, while a 50mm drop adds more downforce for F1-like roadholding.

Energy modes

While Button’s car isn’t a hybrid, the hybrid driveline in the P1 does share a key feature derived from F1: KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System).

KERS tops up the 324-cell lithium-ion battery pack with recycled braking energy, which feeds the electric motor that’s mated to the P1’s 727bhp 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8. Push the little red button next to the steering wheel labelled IPAS (Instant Power Assist System) and the KERS gives you a 176bhp boost, for a total of 903bhp – straight outta F1.

Chassis cleverness

McLaren says that the P1’s RaceActive Chassis Control (RCC) is the most advanced suspension set-up ever fitted to a road car. We agree. It’s both hydropneumatic and adaptive, using both hydraulic fluid and compressed nitrogen as well as small, conventional springs. RCC can deliver the supplest of rides for comfort yet reaches F1-levels of roll stiffness in Race Mode. The Race button switches the P1 into ‘fully focused track mode,’ configuring the aero and increasing roll stiffness by a massive 350%.

Akebono, which equips the McLaren F1 car, developed the P1’s brakes to combine F1 stopping-power with low noise at road speeds. Straight from F1? Not quite – more like F1 adapted for the real world.