McLaren once copied a diffuser design using a picture of an upside-down competitor

Formula 1 teams will do pretty much anything to get an idea of what the other guys are doing. Sometimes they’ll ask drivers to sniff around competitors the cars on the grid. Other times they send engineers to each other’s garages with cameras. This outright espionage sometimes has humorous results. Race mechanics occasionally stand in a line at the garage entrance to prevent snapshots. On the racetrack, however, there’s nothing you can do about prying eyes. That’s what happened in 1989 when a Leyton House car – put together by legendary designer Adrian Newey – had a crash at the start of the French Grand Prix.

It’s rare that an F1 engineer would admit to copying another car, but it’s been more than thirty years. Also, stealing from Adrian Newey to make the world championship-winning MP4/5B (driven by Ayrton Senna) seems like a good idea–especially in hindsight.

This also happened to Newey in 2015

Although I can’t find any evidence of anybody copying this design (it’s only been five years and I doubt anyone would admit it) I’m sure the cameras were snapping away when Max Verstappen’s engine cover blew off at the Italian GP in 2015. Newey also designed this car.

Also, here’s a bonus video of Newey driving the Leyton House car in question.

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2 responses to “McLaren once copied a diffuser design using a picture of an upside-down competitor”

  1. outback_ute Avatar

    Great anecdote, and why not admit it? I wonder how much testing there was versus just scaling it out.

  2. Ryan Avatar

    In regards to Max at Monza in 2015, at that point he was racing for Torro Rosso in the SRT10. that car’s design had no input from Adrian Newey.

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