When the term ‘minimalist design’ was originally coined, it referred to something spartan, such as an Ariel Atom or Caterham Seven. Perhaps even a Lotus Elise.
However supercars don’t tend to be quite so minimalist – the original McLaren F1 was purposeful inside, more so the Ferrari F40 with it’s door-pull straps, and it looks like McLaren’s new P1 strikes a similar balance between form and function.
The good news is there’s plenty of carbon fibre. And Alcantara. Both core ingredients in any performance car these days. Don’t expect any aluminium – except perhaps on the heating controls.
McLaren describe the P1 as having “..the cockpit ‘of a fighter jet.” (cue Top Gun music and images of the vertically-challenged Tom Cruise in Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses), principally due to its overhead glass canopy and a windscreen which is deeper than it is wide. This makes the car easier to plant on road and track.
And just like a fighter pilot the driver’s cockpit is free from any distractions, focused totally on the task of driving with only the necessary switchgear for safe, fast and comfortable progress. As with the 1992 McLaren F1, the P1 retains certain luxury features such as full climate control, satellite navigation and a bespoke sound system – developed with UK-based Hi-Fi experts Meridian Audio.
McLaren was a pioneer in the use of carbon fibre in Formula One and the P1’s MonoCage chassis is beautifully exposed in its two-seat cabin. But you’ll notice something different about the material used in the P1, unlike that which you might find in other cars, McLaren has ‘removed’ the top layer of resin, leaving it in a non-lacquered state and saving a further 1.5kg of weight.
The Alcantara trim has also been minimised leaving as many parts as exposed as possible, and there is no interior sound deadening in order to optimise weight saving even further. Carpet is offered ‘as an option’, but when chosen is fitted with a special lightweight backing.
The next target of McLaren’s obsessive focus on weight saving are the seats. Weighing just 10.5kg each, the ultra-thin carbon fibre shells are mounted on lightweight brackets and runners covered with the minimum amount of foam. The seat backs are fixed at 28 degrees from the vertical, but can be set to 32 degrees to provide more helmet head room when driving on the track. The seat height will be custom set for each owner (and their passenger) and can be subsequently adjusted by McLaren, while fixings for a six-point race harness are already in place in addition to the standard inertia reel seat belts.
As you’d expect from McLaren, the P1’s interior is the poster-child of an obsessive-compulsive designer – even the steering wheel diameter has been precisely calculated based on the grips of McLaren’s past world champions – with the P1 you’re buying more than a car, you’re also buying a legacy.
Further details will be forthcoming as we near the Geneva Motor Show, but it will be fascinating to compare each tiny detail of McLaren’s P1 and Ferrari’s F150 once we’ve got them both side by side.