It is inevitable that we’ll draw comparisons between the P1 and F1, no matter how unfair that seems. But although the new car is leagues more advanced than the car we consider its spiritual predecessor, there are elements common to the two.

Not least of those is the link between design and purpose that pulled the P1 into a wind tunnel weekly, for work not just on the external aerodynamics but also to ensure that sufficient quantities of air could enter and exit the P1’s carbonfibre bodywork.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The McLaren is packed full of beautiful but functional details

That body sits over a pre-preg composite monocoque whose central tub – which weighs just 90kg – owes much to that of the 650S and 12C.

But to suggest that it’s a simple derivation sells it short. It is a bespoke structure that, unlike the 12C’s, incorporates a roof, holds the hybrid’s battery and electronics and houses the snorkel that feeds air into the turbochargers.

Likewise, although the base engine – a twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 – owes its existence to the 12C’s, the block is unique, strengthened and modified to accommodate a hybrid electric motor. On its own, the flat-plane-crank V8 generates 727bhp.

The electric motor, when asked to contribute, adds another 176bhp, making a faintly staggering total of 903bhp. This means that the P1’s engine is more than 2.0 litres smaller than the one in the nose of a Ferrari F12 yet generates an additional 173bhp.

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Maintaining good driveability, given this level of specific output (and this engine, as you’ll read later, is remarkably docile), is one of McLaren’s greatest achievements with this car.

The powertrain – longitudinally mid-mounted within the tub – drives the rear wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, through which torque is sometimes limited to less than its 664lb ft maximum, to spare the clutches.

Everywhere, detailing is exquisite and weight saving fanatical; the exhaust weighs just 17kg, the windscreen is 3.5kg lighter than a 12C’s and the 19-inch front wheels weigh less than 8kg apiece. Laden with fluids, the P1 weighs a claimed 1490kg.

Inevitably that’s rather more than the 1138kg at which we weighed an F1 with half a tank of fuel but significantly less than the 1995kg (fuelled) at which a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport tipped our scales.

The P1’s suspension is an extension of the system used by the 12C, a hydropneumatic set-up that controls springing and damping. On the 12C, the system only controls vehicle roll (movements around an axis), but the P1’s system also includes control of ‘heave’ — the vertical movement of the car in relation to the ground.

So whereas the 12C uses larger coil springs to control heave, the P1 has a more complicated system that replaces those springs with additional hydraulic reservoirs to provide the control of the car’s height.

There are still coil springs, but they’re small and relatively soft and only control the static height of the car. Most of the work is done by the hydraulics. McLaren calls the system Race Active Chassis Control (RCC) and because, as on the 12C, it can control roll stiffness, there is no need for anti-roll bars, so each corner can be tuned truly independently.

Uniquely, in this application, it can control ride height, which is why the spring stiffness (via compression of the fluid) goes up so much when the car is lowered into Race mode.

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