- Apr 1, 2011
I'd like to start off with a confession if I may: I was a fool - A fool to have been duped into the allure of the ever-powerful, ever-accelerating and seemingly endless rev-range of the Ferrari LaFerrari.
On paper, the figures speak for themselves, the LaFerrari should in theory be the quicker of the two. It's got 60 more horsepower and weighs nearly 200 kilograms less than the hypercar from Woking, and the McLaren is slower from both 0-100 kph and 0-200 kph. This is an alarming advantage that the LaFerrari appears to have, so I scoffed when people even dared to raise the question of which one would be quicker. It was a no-brainer, right?
Certainly, in a straight line the Ferrari will beat the McLaren. But the majority of race tracks on this planet aren't as simple as a straight line, in fact some of them even have corners that lead you back to the timing point, hence the term "lap time". It's in these squiggly pieces of tarmac where the McLaren hits back at the Ferrari, and in a big way too. When you think about corners, you cannot go past the track that has around 150 of them, the Nurburgring-Nordschleife: the greatest test of both man and machine, and widely considered to be the most dangerous racetrack in the world.
But before I get onto the 'Ring, I'd like to give my take on the styling of the car. It certainly appears to be a reversal of my thoughts on the LaFerrari, where I liked the front-end but the rear-end appeared rather ungainly. With the naked eye, it's quite clear that the McLaren has been sculpted from the data retrieved in a wind-tunnel. Personally, I do not like the look of the front end. It looks as if it's been stung by a bee and has become deeply swollen. The front air intake also gives the car a sort of sadistic grin, as if to foreshadow the insane speeds this thing can reach. The rear-end however, is an absolute masterpiece with those rear taillights that hug the contours of the bodywork, the massive exhaust pipe in the middle, the rear floor diffuser which produces a mammoth amount of downforce, and then finally the active aerodynamic rear-wing that moves up and down and changes pitch to maximise the aerodynamic efficiency and downforce production. There are many instances of science being beautiful, and this is definitely one of them.
"There are many instances of science being beautiful, and this is definitely one of them."
Hurtling around the Nurburgring-Nordschleife in a fast car is one thing, but doing so in the McLaren P1 is something so incredibly special that it needs to be savoured. There's an aura about it when you're driving the P1 at quarter-speed because you know that you're barely scratching the surface of a 903 bhp hypercar, and because you know that it has so much more to give, yet it's incredibly civilised to simply sit in sixth gear at 200 kph. What's stopping you from savouring the moment is that the car is almost egging you on to go faster, brake later, get on the power earlier and take those death defying corners faster than you could possibly imagine any other road car being capable of doing so.
As I stated earlier, the McLaren is far better at cornering than the Ferrari, and from the drivers seat it feels that the McLaren is far more track-ready than its Italian competitor. The suspension feels stiffer, there's less body roll, it's more stable under braking and it has a more controlled power delivery. The net result of all this means that at most tracks, the McLaren is more than a second per lap faster than the LaFerrari. One second might not sound like much, but at these speeds, it's a huge amount of time to bleed. At a track like Monza however, the LaFerrari is generally quicker because straight line speed is what matters most there, but at the Nordschleife where there is virtually non-stop corners for the best part of eight minutes, the P1 is around about 10 to 15 seconds per lap faster than the LaFerrari. If there's one gripe I have with the way the P1 handles, it's the high speed understeer. Whether that's because of the amount of rear downforce that the rear-wing and the floor diffuser creates, I'm not sure, but I often found myself playing the waiting game for the front-end to re-engage and bite into the tarmac. This is not the case in the Ferrari which has far more responsive steering and front-end grip, even if it feels less stable than the McLaren as an overall package.
The noise the P1 makes in Assetto Corsa is astonishingly life-like. The moaning growl of its' huge V8 engine combined with the hissing turbos creates an incredibly immersive and visceral feeling when driving it, and it's eerily similar to its real life counterpart. Huge credit to Kunos on this one as their sound department have done a stellar job with the P1. The same cannot be said of the LaFerrari as it sounds virtually nothing like it's screaming V12 real life counterpart.
The McLaren P1 has vastly exceeded my expectations in terms of performance, and I'm very interested to see which is fastest in the real world, that is if McLaren and Ferrari can get over themselves and actually agree to do it. I also don't want to rule out the Porsche 918, which I feel I have unfairly dismissed in the past as the sort of 'third-wheel' in this competition. I will reserve judgement on it because as the McLaren has clearly shown, those big glamorous numbers of horsepower and torque, are not everything.
5 out of 5 stars.
An absolutely astonishing car, so much so, that it could easily be a candidate for the greatest car ever made.