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Phantom Menace

Phantom Menace

Words by: JPS

McLaren calls it the future of Formula 1. We've come to think of it as the Phantom Menace.

But either way there's no denying the storied British marques MP4-X concept is gonna leave the competition shaken and stirred, should it ever become a reality. On the surface it's a response to both emerging technology in the high stakes, high octane world of grand prix racing and an ever-increasing demand for greater safety. In 2014 Frances Jules Bianchi was killed at the Japanese Grand Prix, the first driver to die during an F1 grand prix championship event since Ayrton Senna in 1994. For one thing the MP4-X assumes closed cockpits, currently under consideration, will soon become mandatory.

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The MP4-X's roof is made of photochromic, hydrophobic, high-impact material, which adjusts its tint according to light conditions and repels water. Aerodynamics are the McLarens real upgrade though, thanks to a sculpted underbody with wind tunnels and bodywork-fitted electrodes that can turn the surrounding air into plasma for added downforce when needed. Still illegal but perhaps not for much longer. There's also a fighter jet-style heads-up display, and tire sensors that can detect blowouts before they happen. Since the ending of McLaren's 20-year partnership with Mercedes in 2014 the marque could use an edge to get back on the podium. And the MP4-X suddenly looks like the sharpest knife in the drawer.

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