Down­force isn’t beau­ti­ful. Up un­til this year we weren’t sure. Then the Senna ar­rived, its ap­pear­ance mostly aquatic bot­tom feeder with a dash of kitchen im­ple­ment, and it was set­tled. Down­force is ugly. But form fol­lows func­tion, and McLaren is good at func­tion. And the func­tion of the Senna is to go very fast in­deed around a race­track. And these days the equa­tion be­tween power and grip is only bal­anced by adding down­force. Eight hun­dred ki­los of it in the case of the Senna. Now, de­liv­er­ing down­force is not dif­fi­cult – just fit a big­ger wing, a longer split­ter, a larger dif­fuser. But at that point road cars run head­long into reg­u­la­tions. Reg­u­la­tions that de­mand pedes­tri­ans can’t insert their heads into bits of body­work, cut them­selves on edges or have vi­tal anatom­i­cal bits sev­ered.

And that’s what makes the Senna such an achieve­ment. That rear wing, top-mounted to keep its key down­force-pro­duc­ing un­der­side cleaner, made en­tirely of car­bon fi­bre, weighs only 4.89kg, yet can sup­port over 100 times its weight. It can move through al­most 90º, manag­ing the Senna’s cen­tre of pres­sure, the air­flow care­fully guided as it ap­proaches and de­parts. It de­fines the Senna. Not pretty, no. But as­ton­ish­ingly ef­fec­tive.

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