McLaren-Mercedes' third driver, Alexander Wurz, gave the Woking-based team's MP4-18 its first outing at the Paul Ricard circuit on Wednesday. We have details, pictures of the new racer.

McLaren-Mercedes third driver, Alexander Wurz, gave the Woking-based team's eagerly-awaited MP4-18 its first outing at the Paul Ricard circuit on Wednesday.

The team began a three-day test session at the French circuit to gauge the reliability and speed of the new car ahead of its grand prix début at the Canadian or British grand prix in July. The test will also see regular drivers David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen continue the development of the 17-D together with test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

As can be seen in these photos, the MP4-18 incorporates a number of visible differences. These include a shorter and lower nose, a more tightly packaged rear and a slight dorsal fin shaping to the engine cover. In addition, the new Mercedes-Benz engine, the FO 110P V10, has been lowered within the car, producing centre of gravity benefits.

"The new FO 110P was purpose built for the MP4-18 to form an integral part of the car. Everybody at Mercedes-Ilmor in Brixworth and Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart have been developing the new engine as well as further improving the FO 110M V10 that is currently being run in MP4-17D," Mercedes-Benz Motorsport boss Norbert Haug said.

The MP4-18's programme at the Paul Ricard test will see the team focusing on electronic systems, aerodynamic efficiency and components evaluation. After the first test, the West McLaren Mercedes team will continue the car's development schedule and once the initial programme has been completed, David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen will take over.

"This car has probably had more research put into it than any other car I have worked on. There are clearly visible developments to the car, such as the shorter, lower nose and the rear end. However myself, Mike Coughlan (chief designer), Neil Oatley (executive director of engineering), and the entire design team have particularly focused on the packaging of the car," McLaren-Mercedes technical director Adrian Newey said.

"The MP4-18 is much more compact than its predecessor. We have included some developments that aim to improve the aerodynamic and weight efficiency of the car's construction. The MP4-18 is the first car designed specifically to maximise the performance of the Michelin tyres, and it has also been exclusively aerodynamically designed in our wind tunnel at the McLaren Technology Centre," he added.

At the end of the session, Wurz finished bottom of the timesheets. The Austrian said the purpose of the car’s first outing was to check its system and that it was difficult to gauge the car's abilities.

“So far, I'm happy," he added. The car has a seven-speed gearbox but I was only using six today and short shifting – I had a speed limit. We only did a few laps, but we will build that up as the week progresses and maybe get to a level where we can look at the performance. We are not planning any race distances or anything like that.

"There is no way I can judge the car yet. We'll just have to wait and see until I am allowed to push the car,” Wurz said.

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Original article from Car