Even if Caterham's platypus nose bucks the trend slightly, the opening two launches of the 2012 F1 season suggests that the majority of this season's F1 grid will adopt the 'evolution not revolution' approach.

McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe certainly backs this notion, having commented on the appearance and design philosophy of the team's new MP4-27, but admits that, underneath the sleek chrome bodywork, is near enough a complete overhaul from last season's MP4-26.

"Yeah, a great deal of change," Lowe stated, "I mean, it is in the nature of F1 now that the regulations are trimming us into narrower and narrower boxes so, inevitably, we don't see the big radical changes that we saw in the past from one year to the next.

"Every single part has been assessed, optimised for weight, stiffness, performance in any other respect. And, when you add all of that up, you get a car that's net quicker, that's the name of the game.

"So, in every area, the teams are tasked to find that one per cent, two per cent, because we're looking for that total."

Lowe went on to explain that the car still yields important innovations for the coming season, namely the noticeably tightened rear end, which should improve air flow following the loss of downforce thanks to the outlawing of the exhaust blown diffuser.

"Nevertheless, there are still obvious innovations," he noted, "We have done a lot of work around the back end, [there's] a lot more tidy packaging there. We've had to respond to the change in the exhaust regulations, but that's really the most significant change from last year."

However, according to the technical director, finding the downforce and making it accessible to the drivers has proven to be quite a challenge for the aero boffins at the Woking technology centre.

"That's given the aerodynamicists a great challenge to come up with, not only the downforce, but the means of creating that balance that Jenson [Button] and Lewis [Hamilton] were talking about. You need the downforce, but you need it in a way that you can use it, so [there's] a lot of focus in that area."

Lowe also clarifies that the designers were careful to both integrate the car legally in terms of the slightly tweaked front and rear end regulations from last year, but to also carry the same philosophy from last season.

"Yes, there was a regulation change around the front end this year to limit the height of the nose and the forward part of the chassis," he said, "We've produced an arrangement which meets that regulation but, at the same time, follows some of the philosophy that we've carried over from last year, hence the line is similar in appearance. We haven't pursued the route that Red Bull took.

"It's a matter of your philosophy and the different trades you make. You know, you can't see performance necessarily by eye, it's a matter of fine-tuning the balance between all the relevant aspect."

by Simon Evans


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