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McLaren P1 turns 10: here are 10 things you need to know

One third of the fabled ‘Holy Trinity’ remains a breathtakingly fast car. Here are the vitals

McLaren P1 Top Gear
  1. It takes its name not just from Formula One, but That Other McLaren

    McLaren F1 Top Gear

    McLaren's F1 team hasn’t seen a ‘P1’ in a fair old while (and judging by its performance at the Bahrain GP, is unlikely to anytime soon), but the P1 hypercar was of course named after first place on the starting grid.

    However, you might be interested to learn that the McLaren F1 road car was the first to get the moniker, internally known as ‘Project 1’. That’s P1.

    So, to summarise: the F1 that was called P1 that referenced P1 in F1 gave its codename to the P1 that used F1 tech. Maybe. Look it’s a really cool name.

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  2. McLaren scanned its F1 champs’ hand grips to shape the P1’s steering wheel

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    There’s tech trickle-down, and then there’s outright leaning-over-the-desk-to-copy. McLaren said the hand grips of its world champion drivers “were modelled on a CAD system during development and scanned to produce an exact replica”. Perfect for finessing that classic ‘oh-god-that’s-massive-oversteer’ moment.

  3. It is ungodly fast

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    Goes without saying that a hypercar from a manufacturer that once built the world’s fastest ever car would be ungodly quick. The P1 will hit 62mph from rest in just 2.8s, but amazingly can go from 0-186mph – 0-300km/h – in just 16.5s.

    That’s 5.5s quicker than what was once the world’s fastest ever car. (That's the McLaren F1, in case it wasn't crystal clear.)

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  4. Hilariously, the P1 is exempt from congestion charges

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    The McLaren P1 is a hybrid, long before it was cool. If hybrids were ever cool. Moving on. The 26kg motor features internal rotor cooling and kicks out double the power of a 2013 F1 car’s KERS unit. In this instance its main purpose was filling the holes left by turbo lag for better throttle response.

    However, it’s also possible to drive the McLaren P1 purely on electric power alone for *some* miles. Say, if you’re in a city with congestion charging. Say, like London. McLaren quotes 6.8m on the old NEDC testing cycle, at which point it becomes a zero-emission hypercar. We matched that figure on European motorways, FYI, but it offered a bit more in town.

  5. The spring rates stiffen by 300 per cent in Race Mode

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    That’s a big number, right? Engaging Race Mode is a process that takes 30 seconds, whereby the wing rises, the suspension drops 50mm and everything gets super serious. In this state the P1 can corner at a stomach-troubling 2g. McLaren quotes 600kg of downforce at 161mph, “which is more in line with the levels of downforce generated by a GT3 racing car”. 

    If you’re struggling for context, that’s a lot. Like, loads. Possibly more than any customer McLaren P1 has ever experienced. Can’t activate that much downforce if it’s snuggled away in an air-conditioned garage, right?

  6. It’s got proper ‘ground effect’ aero

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    Famously deployed in Formula One to great, um, effect, the P1’s carbon fibre underfloor is smooth meaning it boosts downforce and gives “similar levels of performance to a Le Mans sports racer”. Helps when you’re in aforementioned Race Mode, which of course lessens the gap betwixt P1 underbelly and tarmac.

  7. Each car took 17 days to build

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    McLaren tells us assembly for a P1 was a four-stage process which took 82 technicians 17 days to finish one car. It goes something like structural assembly, followed by painting, followed by trim assembly and finally the, um, final assembly.

    Using entirely unsubstantiated conjecture, can confirm this was broken down as 1) one day to build the thing, 2) 16 days sliding around a racetrack for ‘development purposes’.

    Speaking of which…

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  8. The P1 covered more than 385,000 miles during its development

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    Specifically, 385,250 miles of testing, the equivalent of travelling more than 15 times around the world. Probably need a few pit stops for that.

  9. It can do a sub-seven minute lap around the Nürburgring

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    One of McLaren’s P1 performance metrics was to lap the Green Hell in under seven minutes. Even in 2023, we’re none the wiser as to exactly how far under seven minutes a ‘regular’ P1 achieved. But we do know that back in 2017, a P1 ‘LM’ built by Lanzante (pictured here) managed an astonishing 6m 43s in road-legal guise.

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  10. McLaren only ever built 375 P1s

    McLaren P1 Top Gear

    The first P1 – P1 one if you will – is the silver car on the left, while the 375th P1 produced is the orange car on the right. Apparently North and South America were the biggest P1 recipients – around 34 per cent of total production – while Europe received a quarter of the entire run.

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