McLaren MP4-26 (2011) Chinese GP - Hamilton
Driven by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the respective 2008 and 2009 world champions, the MP4-26 was McLaren’s challenger for the 2011 FIA Formula 1 World Championship® season.
The MP4-26 was noted for its unique “L-shaped” sidepod arrangement, as McLaren attempted to feed good-quality air to the rear-lower mainplane and the floor of the car. This was done to get the rear-end working as well as possible following the loss of performance caused by the banning of the double diffuser. The cooling radiators inside the distinctive sidepods were custom cut to perfectly fit the unusual shape. The nose remained high and long to create downforce and the MP4-26 was the only car that season to feature the aerodynamic ‘snow plough’ splitter under the nose.
After a troublesome pre-season testing, the MP4-26 arrived in Melbourne for the new season with some significant improvements already in place. A podium for Hamilton in Australia followed by another for Button in Malaysia quickly established the MP4-26 as a faster car than Ferrari’s challenger, the 150° Italia, but still behind Red Bull’s RB7. Victory in the third round of the season, the Chinese Grand Prix, gave McLaren hope that it could continue to challenge Red Bull. However, at the following race in Turkey, both drivers missed out on the podium, as Ferrari showed that they were still capable of taking the fight to the Red Bulls. Hamilton and Button returned to the rostrum in Spain and the latter added a further third place to his tally in Monaco. In Canada, the MP4-26 claimed a second win after Button emerged victorious from what became the longest grand prix in Formula 1 history. In a rain-soaked race with six Safety Car appearances, Button crashed twice (once with his teammate, taking Hamilton out of the race), pitted five times, served a drive-through penalty and fought through the field multiple times before overtaking Sebastian Vettel on the final lap to emerge victorious. After poor performances at the European and British Grands Prix a McLaren driver would go on to finish on the podium in each of the 10 remaining races of the season. Hamilton took victory in Germany and Button won in Hungary and Japan before the team scored double podium finish in Abu Dhabi, where Hamilton took the win and Button finished third.
Overall, the McLaren MP4-26 won six races, achieved 12 further podiums and scored 497 points, taking second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
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