Officials at McLaren Automotive have repeatedly insisted the new 2011 MP4-12C is not a successor to the vaulted F1 -- but a new car, possibly debuting as early as 2012, could be a true heir to the F1's throne.
We'd previously heard McLaren was planning a full range of cars, including the new MP4-12C and a convertible variant, a hybrid utilizing McLaren's Formula 1 KERS technology, and the F1 follow-up. According to an insider who spoke to Britain's Autocar magazine, the F1 successor could be ready to launch by 2012, and may well be a regular production model, not a limited-edition vehicle.
Autocar suggests the car will be "a revolutionary hypercar," and will be instantly recognizable as something special, perhaps quelling complaints surrounding the MP4-12C's tame styling. Like the latest Mac model, the new car will be as light as possible, thanks to new construction techniques, and an expansive use of carbon fiber. We'd expect the carbon fiber monocoque tub, also used in the MP4, to make an appearance in the new car.
The F1 successor will most assuredly place its engine behind the cockpit, but there's some speculation surrounding what engine will lurk in the car's hindquarters. McLaren could call upon its former partner -- Mercedes-Benz -- to provide an engine and transaxle, but the company did design a bespoke engine for the MP4-12C (a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-8), so it could do the same for the new car. We'd imagine McLaren's seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox will also appear in the nouveau F1.
Autocar says McLaren engineers are furiously working on an intensive development process, mandated in no small part by the 2012 deadline. Regardless of when it launches, expect the finished product to slot in above the MP4-12C in McLaren's portfolio, and carry a significant price premium.