The difference is that here the chassis is no longer cast in a supporting role to the engine. They get equal billing and provide a double act of what, even today, is rare ability. The P1 actually feels quicker in a straight line than the F1 because the hybrid system fills in all the holes in the torque delivery, providing turbocharged shove with zero lag. It doesn’t sound beautiful like the F1 – in fact, it sounds quite ugly – but it somehow fits the maniacal rate at which it gathers speed.
But while you’re conservative with the F1’s entry speed into corners and downright cautious with its brakes, you can treat the P1 almost like a racing car. You can brake from 190mph, feel the carbon brakes shed 100mph like they’re shrugging off a coat and then fling it into a corner while still hard on the stoppers. Try that in the F1 and you’d be in the trees. It has massively more grip yet, despite that, the limit is not something to be carefully skirted as you would in the F1: it’s a place to seek out and enjoy. With proper downforce, active aero, (relatively) modern tyres and one of the world’s most sophisticated suspension systems, the P1 is actually a far easier and more accessible car to drive fast than the F1, and that fact stands as a powerful riposte to the many and varied ways in which the older car proves that not all progress is always in the right direction.
But it is the Senna that shows how McLaren hypercar philosophy has evolved over a quarter of a century. The F1 was a pure road car and always intended as such. The P1 is a finely judged balance between road and track and uses its suspension to prove itself very plausible in both environments. But the Senna? I once spent a long day on the road in one and it was thrilling. So, too, was it hard. Really hard. The car is noisy and it is uncomfortable. You never know what reaction you’re going to get when you nail the throttle because you’ll almost always instantly trigger a traction control system so sophisticated that all you usually notice is a reduction in engine power. You can, of course, turn it off but get ready to get busy if you do. More than anything, the Senna feels like a caged beast on the road because, unlike the others here, unless you’re driving it as fast as you can, there’s not much point being on board. And you can’t do that in public.
But on the track? Oh my goodness. The Senna is so good it actually makes the P1 feel if not actually clumsy then certainly its age. It feels like a racing car, or as much like a racing car as a street-legal tyre will permit in 2019. Its composure in quick corners is utterly unlike that of any other road car I’ve driven. Its precision, speed and feel at big speeds is simply sublime. If it has a problem, it is only that the car is so much better than its Pirelli Trofeo R tyres, which are themselves state of the art. In high-speed corners, when there’s 800kg of downforce nailing the car to the road, it’s mesmerising, in a different world even from that inhabited by the P1. In the slow stuff, when it can only rely on mechanical grip, there is understeer that needs a degree of management. Happily, being closer in weight to the F1 than the P1 and more chuckable than either, there’s much fun to be had sorting it out. And it is utterly viceless, too.