For a while now, people have been wondering exactly what McLaren’s technical boffins have been up to with the design of the MP4-26, which had no immediately-apparent exhaust outlets. Where rumours of Renault’s exhaust solution broke just hours after the car launch, it would appear that Woking have been even trickier than Enstone.
Scuttlebutt suggests that McLaren have managed to find a loophole in the regulations that allows them to have mutiple exhaust outlets. The exhaust moves from the engine to a ceramic “box” behind the gearbox, which then splits off into several smaller tubes that route the exhaust gasses across the whole diffuser, thus applying the concept of an exhaust-blown diffuser to the car by cleverly stepping around it.
Spinning out from this is the suggestion that McLaren’s lack of pace has nothing to do with an absence downforce. Rather, the suggestion has been that the tubes used in the ceramic box – known as the “Octopus” – are too small and too long. They are supposedly deforming when exposed to the incredible heat of the exhaust, and they cannot handle the strain of forces exerted on them. If this is indeed true and McLaren can engineer a solution, the the MP4-26 could be incredibly competitive. If not, then the entire car will be compromised because an alternative solution will be needed and planned upgrades will be rendered useless.
I stress this is all just rumour right now, but if it’s true, then I can see the FIA banning it at the end of the year. Or sooner if Ferrari complain about it.