Autocar can reveal that McLaren’s own long-delayed mid-engined supercar project is back on track. The first prototypes already on test in the UK, and our exclusive artist’s impression reveals, for the first time, how the car could look. For McLaren the project will be a chance to build a pure-bred follow-up the legendary F1, a car still regarded by some as the finest high-performance car in history.
F2: aborted Mercedes project comes good
The F2 has its roots in the P8, the car McLaren had been committed to building as a smaller and cheaper supercar with Mercedes, after the launch of the SLR. Mercedes boss Jurgen Hubbert confirmed in early 2004 that the company was actively “looking at a mid-engined road car”. Codenamed P8, the car was put on hold in late 2004 by then-Mercedes Car Group boss Eckhard Cordes. Cordes said that the P8 had “successfully completed the concept stage,” but development had been frozen. The hiatus was mainly a result of huge losses at Mercedes and the emergence of significant quality problems in its mainstream models. Also, the SLR was also not as well received as Mercedes had hoped and there was a great deal of recrimination in the air, especially about its perceived engineering failings.
McLaren goes it alone
The F2 will be a solo effort by the Woking outfit, and a chance to re-establish the company’s credentials at the top-end of the market. Sources have told Autocar that mechanical mules disguised under a Ferrari 360 body are already running around the company’s Woking HQ. They advise to expect a mid-engined machine built around a carbon-fibre monocoque. If the new car does echo the 15-year old F1 concept it will be powered by a normally aspirated V12 powerplant too. However, as F1 currently demands V8 engines, the baby McLaren could reflect F1’s attempts to become greener by concentrating on keeping weight down in tandem with a more modest powerplant.