McLaren v Ferrari


It’s on again!

We’re frequently treated to the spectacle of Ferrari and McLaren battling it out on tracks around the world during the F1 season, but this year it’s different, with the rare event of the two titans of automotive sport locking horns on the road again.

So who’s going to win this epic battle this time?

Last time McLaren lost out, with most motoring media handing victory to the Ferrari 458 over the MP12-4C. A surprising result, given that the McLaren was both lighter and more powerful, but apparently the 458 was the better, more exciting car, and on certain tracks the faster one as well.

But let’s go back 20 years to the last time McLaren released a hypercar…

Back then, the F1 was the most incredible thing we’d ever seen on the road, and personally, I think it’s the main reason why the F50 remains Ferrari’s forgotten hypercar.

Just imagine it. Ferrari had major success and earned a lot of supercar kudos with the F40. At the time, the F50 was only slightly heavier, with a more powerful, naturally aspirated, V12 engine that was genuinely based on the one found in the back of their F1 car. You can see why they thought the F50 was a step on from the F40 on nearly every level, but it totally bombed when McLaren’s F1 arrived, and it has lived in the shadow of that car ever since… and it wasn’t a bad car. At the time, we thought we’d never see thes like of the F1 again, and that seemed ever more likely, when even the Enzo was released, and that was slower (in a straight line), than the F1 as well.

That must have really stung Ferrari.

So how is it going to play out this time? Well, McLaren have played their cards first. This week the specs have been released and they are impressive. In case you don’t know, here they are:

Power: 903 bhp (727 from the twin turbo petrol motor, and 176 from the electric motor)

Torque: 691 lbft (530 from the twin turbo petrol motor, and 161 from the electric motor)

Downforce: 600 kgs

Weight: 1400 kgs

(I haven’t added in performance times, because nobody has had the chance to verify them independently yet)

The figures make very impressive reading, but then the new Ferrari isn’t going to be a slouch either. I’m pretty sure it will be more powerful. In the F12, it’s V12 engine already makes 730 bhp with 509 lbft, and it’ll be more powerful again in it’s headline flagship. It will also have a comparable electric motor too.

So the Ferrari will be quicker right?

Well, there’s the weight and size issue to contend with first. The Ferrari’s powertrain is much bigger and heavier than the McLaren’s, bearing in mind the engine has 4 more cylinders and nearly double the capacity. Ferrari have also added the electric motor to the end of the power train, whereas McLaren have incorporated theirs within the engine block, so it’s a fair bet the car will be longer than the P1. All in all, I think the Ferrari will be the heavier car. This may give it a traction advantage, but it’ll also chip away at the power to weight ratio.

Then there’s downforce. The Enzo makes far more downforce than the P1 claims, although this maximum isn’t reached until aboput 186 mph, whereas, McLaren were hinting that the P1 will generate it’s maximum downforce at a much lower speed. Ferrari can surely match this though, as they do know a thing or two about aerodynamics. This sounds like a good thing for ultimate track cars, as there aren’t many corners I think owners would be willing to throw a £1m supercar through at substantial, triple figure speeds.

So we haven’t really come to any reasonable conclusion so far, but this is my take on it:

Power: 950+ bhp – I think the Ferrari V12 will produce at least 850+ bhp with an additional 100 from the electric motor, so it will be more powerful than the McLaren.

Torque: 740 lbft – If the rumours are right about a 7.3 litre engine, then it will produce a little over 80 lbft per litre. I’d expect the electric motor to contribute another 150 lbft or so.

Downforce: Really not sure how Ferrari will approach this, so I’m going to grab a figure from the air of 800 kgs at 100 mph or so. It’s going to need a figure like this if it’s going to corner in anything like the same High G manner as the McLaren.

Weight: 1500 kgs – Given the original Enzo was light weight and stripped out carbon bodied car, it still weighed 1300+ kgs, the new car will be hard pressed to be that light, so reckon on 1500 kgs, pretty good for a car with a big V12 and a battery pack.

Both cars will accelerate with such ferocity they’ll make a Veyon look slow, and they’ll ceratinly go round a bend quicker than just about anything bar a Caparo T1. 0-100 mph times will be merely a matter of top trumps and will be split by 10ths of a second, meaning a drag race would be won by the driver with the quickest reactions rather than the fastest car.

For proper bragging rights, it’s going to come down to Nurburgring times, and I think to be fair, an independant motoring magazine will have to do the comparison. McLaren have an advantage here as they are so unbelievably meticulous, it’s unlikely the P1 will suffer from overheating dampers or other such nonsense which the Big Red Fiat might. Ferrari is not known for it’s bullet proof build quality.

Amazingly, they’ll both be relatively easy to drive. Part of that will be due to the electrial assistance, especially at low revs where the petrol engines will be out of their torque bands, and part of it will be down to electronic wizardy keeping everything nicely in check. They’ll be fun to drive too, after all, how could they not be? The question will then be which gives you the biggest buzz?


  1. Ferrari are going to make damn sure their car is the fastest in a straight line this time.
  2. McLaren will have the quicker Nurburgring time, and will thus be crowned quickest track car out of the 2.
  3. The Ferrari will be the most fun to drive

Thought long and hard about point 3. It’s going to be close, but I reckon the accelaritive rush will be the same in either car, so that won’t be a deciding factor, however, judging on recent form: the Ferrari will have the sweeter steering, and the more awesome soundtrack which should set spines tingling.

It’s going to be interesting to find out the Ferrari stats later today when their car is unveiled at Geneva, but what do you think?

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