McLaren MP4-13 Mercedes
Team: McLaren International Ltd
Drivers: David Coulthard (7), Mika Häkkinen (8)
Team: Adrian Newey (TD)
Team name: West McLaren Mercedes
The MP4/13 was the first McLaren car completely designed under the lead of Adrian Newey. The year before, when Newey arrived at the Woking-based team, the design of the MP4/12 was already too advanced for him to have a major influence on it.
The car was launched at McLaren's Woking headquarters on Thursday 5th February 1998 in an interim McLaren orange livery. The definitive grey and red livery was only unveiled at Barcelona on 16 February.
1998 was a massive opportunity for the McLaren team as the new FIA regulations stipulated a decrease in car width from 2000 mm to 1800 mm. Immediately during winter testing and at the season opening Australian Grand Prix, it proved that McLaren had interpreted the new rules best. Rather than also shortening the wheelbase, McLaren kept it approximately the same and ended up being around three seconds a lap faster than closest competitor Ferrari.
Neil Oatley recalled: “We didn’t really expect to be so competitive, at least until the car went to Barcelona, and literally the first run we did was quicker than anyone else had all week, so that gave us an inkling that we had reasonably competitive car."
Oatley also wondered whether, “because from a novelty point of view the MP4-13 was probably fairly uninteresting, maybe that was why it was so good." The design process, he said, was relatively late in starting — "it was a fairly hurried car in that respect" - but Newey brought a strong influence to bear on the monocoque shape and its aerodynamics. These were two factors which inevitably drove the whole programme, while other team members battled with the demands of the new narrower-track/grooved tyre regime.
The finished car was a neat and tidy package, relatively small and compact and perhaps because there were no completely radical new features on it everything tended to work well from the very start. Still in place was the previous season's low-level nose design, but the front suspension was quite different with inboard vertical dampers and torsion bars in place of the previous car's horizontally mounted coil spring/damper units. The switch to Bridgestone cost the team some valuable time when it came to finalising the suspension geometry, but it proved worthwhile.
There was however more to the car than the longer wheelbase. As early as the Brazilian GP at Interlagos, Ferrari requested an investigation as it believed the McLaren's were running an illegal asymmetric braking system.
It emerged that the Italian team was thinking that McLaren was using a mechanical system that links the steering with the brakes. Ferrari argued that the system amounts to four-wheel steering which is banned under Article 10.4.1 of the F1 technical regulations. Though the FIA had given approval to McLaren's system during a pre-season discussion, the stewards agreed with Ferrari. McLaren decided to withdraw the system rather than muddy the water in what it felt would be a Championship-winning year. This was a typically shrewd move, and even without the system the drivers managed another McLaren 1-2 leaving Ferrari's Michael Schumacher almost a lap behind.
At the same time, it also became clear that McLaren was using brake energy to generate electrical power that is stored in batteries. This electricity is then used to run auxiliary pumps on the engine to push out an additional 30 to 40 hp for a limited period.
At the start of the season, McLaren were head and shoulders ahead of everybody else. At Australia, both drivers lapped the entire field. Ferrari and Michael Schumacher improved gradually through the season as they introduced a longer wheelbase car, but the season mainly came down to a thriller due to some DNFs during the season. It meant that with just two races left, Hakkinen was neck-and-neck with Schumacher.
At the end of the season, the car was still the best, although the Ferrari was more reliable. McLaren won the constructors' championship with 156 points and Häkkinen won his first drivers' title. In 16 competed races, the drivers enjoyed 12 pole positions, 18 podium finishes, 8 wins for Häkkinen and one for Coulthard.
Chassis: carbon fiber, aluminium
Gearbox: 6 gears
Cooling system: two McLaren/Calsonic water radiators, two McLaren/Marston oil radiators.
Wheels: Enkei 13"
Brakes: AP Racing discs and claws
Length: 4550 mm
Front track: 1492 mm
Rear track: 1412 mm
Wheelbase: 2985 mm
Weight: 600 kg (including water, oil and driver
Designation: Mercedes-Benz FO 110G
Cylinders: 10, in a 72° angle
Valves: 4 per cylinder
Length: 590 mm
Breadth: 546.4 mm
Height: 476 mm
Weight: 107 kilogrammes
Power: 780 bhp
Oil and Petrol: Mobil
Ignition: TAG 2000
Spark plugs: NGK