McLaren vs. Ferrari Formula One rivalry spills onto the road
GENEVA -- The all-consuming rivalry McLaren and Ferrari display on the F1 racetrack was transferred to the Geneva auto show as the two carmakers unveiled competing million-euro hybrid hypercars.
And just as at the racetrack, the rivalry was out in the open. Shortly after Ferrari unveiled its contender, McLaren chairman Ron Dennis breezed past stand security to take a good look for himself. "I'm sure it will be interesting competition when it comes to the Nordschleife," he told me, referring to the coveted record lap time for a production car round the famous Nuerburging track in Germany.
On paper the Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1 are similar. The Italian car is 1.41 million euros ($1.84 million) in Germany, its British rival costs 1.06 million euros and both are exclusive: McLaren will make 375 and Ferrari 499.
The McLaren has an output of 903hp and Ferrari 800hp, but the difference isn't seen in acceleration. Both makers claim their car will reach 100km/h from zero in less than three seconds. Top speed for the McLaren is limited to 350km/h (217mph) while the Ferrari can manage "over 350km/h."
In a first for both companies, they use their knowledge of electric KERs technology in F1 to add a hybrid system. The technology differs slightly between the two cars. McLaren's IPAS system mates a lightweight electric motor to a 100kg battery pack that can be charged from a plug. The firm said that at city speeds the P1 could travel 20km on electric power only, contributing to an emissions rating of less than 200g/km of CO2.
The Ferrari HY-KERS system shrinks the battery pack to 60kg but it can't be charged externally. The result is a much higher emissions rating of 330g/km. In an obvious retort to McLaren, the company said it in a statement its still-impressive CO2 figure was achieved "without resorting to electric-only drive which would not fit the mission of this model."
McLaren needs the extra battery boost to make up a displacement shortfall. The P1 uses a development of the 3.8 liter twin-turbo V-8 from the 12C supercar, with the Ferrari powered by a 6.3 liter V-12.
Both cars are built on a carbon fiber structure to save weight. McLaren claims 1400kg, while Ferrari didn't disclose a figure.
Another battleground between the two is aerodynamics. Dennis said of the Ferrari: "It's obviously a very different approach to the one we've adopted, ours is more dedicated to aerodynamic performance," he said. "We are using the underbody to create downforce."
In contrast Ferrari product marketing manager Andrea Bassi told me: "We try to make aerodynamics with the shape of the car, not to have bigger wings and things like that."
Both companies are using active aerodynamics to increase downforce in track situations. McLaren's wing extends 30cm but can flatten by pressing the DRS button in a change from its automatic operation in F1. Both the P1's wing and the Ferrari's rear spoiler retract fully to leave each car's profile elegantly smooth and flowing.
Buyers are convinced. Both McLaren and Ferrari say they are oversubscribed, and that they will choose buyers based on past loyalty. "We must be sure that they are proud Ferrari customers and that they will keep it, not buy to earn money on it," said Bassi.
McLaren Automotive COO Mike Flewitt told me that rivalry on the road was as important as on the racetrack: "It's good to have competitors, it stretches your thinking." But he was in no doubt which was the better machine. He said: "Our car I am certain will be faster round a track, without a doubt."
You can reach Nick Gibbs at email@example.com.