Age old F1 rivals go head to head again on road and track…
Until Red Bull came along and started winning everything, Formula 1 always excited because of the decade old battle between Ferrari and McLaren. A championship here, a driver’s title there, they have always been the closest rivals on track.
Last year this spilled onto the road as well, when McLaren launched their formidable second ever road car, the MP4-12C – a direct rival for the Ferrari 458. It countered the Ferrari’s more passionate styling and spine-tingling exhaust note with 600 bhp and more technology than a road car had ever seen before. Who won? The jury’s still out on that one, as McLaren we initially criticised for the handling characteristic of the MP4-12C and had massive production issues but have since been continually improving the car, retrofitting to all customer cars and delivering a level of customer service hitherto unknown in the sector. The number of new McLarens you see if still outnumbered by 458s, but only because the Ferrari has been out longer. Offered the two we’d take the McLaren, mainly because we prefer the looks and it seems to be a more rounded product, though we wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the Italian option.
Ding! Ding! Round two.
That’s right; this year sees the game step up a notch or two when it’s Italy Vs. England in the hypercar league. Recently we had confirmation that at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix in June, McLaren will launch their new hypercar, until now known as the P12. Expected to be a true successor to the legendary McLaren F1, the P12 will apparently be using the same basic engine as the MP4-12C but with bigger boost and Formula 1-style KERS technology for added overtaking power. Expect the P12 to have between 800 – 850 bhp, before the additional KERS juice. It will use a similar carbon tub to little brother, but given the expected price tag of £600,000 there should be much less budgetary constraint meaning the whole car will weigh less – rumoured to be around 1100kg.
Styling will be much more adventurous than the MP4-12C, with a much more athletic look. This is McLaren design chief Frank Stephenson’s first clean-sheet design – he could only influence minor details on the 12C, like the front bumper. Hence the double-bubble roof and a canopy-style glasshouse which is said to dominate the P12. A three seat layout like the F1 was trialled, but McLaren Automotive MD Anthony Sherrif didn’t like the way it forced the dimensions of the car to change so binned the idea for a traditional two-seat cabin.
And now, we have the riposte from Maranello. It was revealed recently that Ferrari’s replacement for the Enzo will be revealed before the end of the year. Much less is known about the new car which is known by the fictional ‘F70’ tag, but there are still a few tantalising details hanging around the back door of the rumour mill. Until recently it was thought that the F70 would be using a twin turbo version of the 458’s engine, given the recent trend for downsizing, but two things have now turned that idea on its head.
Firstly, Ferrari revealed the F12 Berlinetta which uses a 6.2 litre V12 producing a mammoth 730 bhp in a production Grand Tourer. It makes sense that Ferrari wouldn’t develop a new engine for the F70 when they have such an incredible powerplant already available. Secondly, the fully disguised powertrain test mules that have been spotted at Fiorino and around Maranello make a sound that is distinctively V12 in origin – the Ferrari spotters (who know their stuff) are certain of this. So, it’s fair to assume the F70 will use an enlarged version of the V12, probably 7.0 litres and will also incorporate KERS technology like the McLaren. A Ferrari insider recently leaked that the F70 could have a boosted power output of over 900 bhp, which means staggering performance. Active aerodynamic tech is also expected on the F70 given its appearance on the F12 Berlinetta.
Both cars will probably be capable of a sub-3 second dash to 60 mph, sub-6 second to 100 mph and will have top speeds of over 220 mph. They’ll probably cost around the same, though in that price range it really doesn’t matter if there’s £100,000 in it. It would be a very tough, but very enjoyable task to try and choose between them.
All we know is that between these two big hitters and the Porsche 918 Spyder, with its similar tech, specs, exotic looks and performance, it turns out that the Chinese were wrong. 2012 is the Year of the Hypercar.