The McLaren MP4-26 was designed by McLaren for the 2011 Formula One season.
It was driven by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the 2008 and 2009 World Drivers' Champions, respectively. The car was launched on 4 February at Potsdamer Platz located in Berlin, Germany.
Right before the 2011 Singapore Grand Prix, McLaren signed a new sponsor: Lucozade and the logo replaced the Johnnie Walker logo on the sides of the rear wing, thus shifting the Johnnie Walker logo to the back of the rear wing, which changed from red to silver in colour.
The car was noted for its unique "L-shaped" sidepod arrangement. Technical director Paddy Lowe has exploited to the extreme the idea of higher outer sidepods, last seen on the likes of Benetton's B195 from 1995 and Ferrari's F310 from 1996.
The aim is to clean up and better direct the airflow to the beam wing at the rear of the car, an area now even more important thanks to the ban on double diffusers. This solution also gives McLaren the possibility of running Renault-R31-style forward exhaust exits.
The design of the MP4-26 was optimised to create down force from the air flow all over the car, including that from the front wheels:
McLaren admitted at the launch that there are a few extra design novelties which they did not show on the car, which were rumoured to include a Lotus Renault GP forward-airduct exiting exhaust system. Following problematic pre-season testing, McLaren had updated the exhaust system by the opening race of the season, the 2011 Australian Grand Prix.