Technically, any paint manufacturer will be keen to tell you, the paint on a Formula 1 car is the first part of the chassis to cross the finish line.
That’s a slightly mischievous take on it, of course, but it nonetheless neatly encapsulates the notion that the paint on a racing car is very much part of the overall package.
So while it may be the very last element that’s applied after many diligent months of design, development, construction and assembly, it’s anything but an afterthought for our paint and coatings partner AkzoNobel.
If anything, the paint process is an integral part of the build and assembly process of the chassis.
It takes four full days (that’s 96 hours!) of labour to completely sand, prime and paint a single MP4-31 chassis. Our paintshop technicians use three litres of primer, two litres of graphite base coat, one litre of Rocket Red, 50 ml of airbrushed metallic black on each car. The finish is then coated with three litres of gloss lacquer to give it the requisite lustre in front of the cameras.
McLaren Racing’s paintshop is comprised of 14 skilled technicians – a team that is not only required to produce flawless work 100 per cent of the time, but also to turn projects around within extremely tight deadlines, all at a moment’s notice.
From a technical perspective, too, we’re pushing boundaries with our paint technology. Alongside AkzoNobel, we’ve worked hard to reduce both the physical weight of the paint (in racing, added weight equals added time, so it’s imperative to save it wherever possible) and the drying time – the better to quickly prep and pack components for last-minute delivery to the track.
Given that there’s more than eight square metres of paint (in numerous coats) on every car, weight savings are considerable. This is largely achieved by making each layer thinner, yet still making it work effectively – for example, the anthracite grey base coat is only 34 microns thick (0.03mm), and the double coat of laquer is just 56 microns thick.
Food for thought when it next comes to painting the spare room, huh?