Compared to cars like the 2012 Red Bull RB8 and the 2012 Ferrari F2012, the current McLaren MP4-27 pictured above uses an oddly-conventional nose design. That may be costing the team seconds on the racetrack, so it’s recently tested a high-nose design at Mugello.

As Autosport tells us, the testing was successful enough that the new nose should appear on the McLaren MP4-27 at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. During a post-test interview, team principal Martin Whitmarsh remarked, “There’s a reasonable chance we’ll see it on Sunday, which will be the first time our drivers experience it.”

Performance gains are subtle, but any improvement in this year’s highly-competitive F1 field is likely to make a difference. Oddly enough, the nose design has little effect on the front of the car, but instead helps to manage airflow directed to the rear.

Regulations surrounding the rear design of F1 cars are strict, so teams must focus on making incremental gains from design changes to other parts of the car.

In Whitmarsh’s words, “You are managing the airflow enjoyed by the rest of the car. [There are] a lot of restrictions around the back end of the car, so you generate more improvement by managing the flow that arrives there than by developing the rear itself.”

Citing the team’s poor performance in Bahrain (where Hamilton finished 8th and Button finished 18th), Whitmarsh hopes the changes will be enough to make the McLaren more competitive. With four front-row starts, two poles and a race win in the first four events, we’d say the team isn’t far off the mark already.