Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Topic

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

The updates helping McLaren fight for F1 wins

McLaren has made some impressive progress in Formula 1 this season, as it has ended its long victory and pole position droughts.

The updates helping McLaren fight for F1 wins

And while it accepts it cannot yet match Mercedes and Red Bull at every race track, its pace has been good enough to consolidate its place as the third best in F1 as it fights off the advances of Ferrari.

McLaren's push has been helped in part by the team's return to Mercedes power, a task that should not be taken lightly given the homologation and token system that was introduced for 2021.

With other teams able to make changes to their car for this season to improve performance elsewhere, McLaren was forced to spend its tokens on integrating the Mercedes power unit into a car originally designed to cater for the Renault power unit.

Nonetheless, despite requiring a unique driving style, the MCL35M appears to be a relatively benign car, much like its predecessor. This seemingly makes it easier to set up and be able to extract performance across a wide range of conditions than some of its rivals.

With that in mind, the team has been careful not to create too much of an imbalance when it has introduced updates.

So let's take a look at what has kept McLaren in the hunt for third place in the constructors' championship.

McLaren MCL35M diffuser detail

McLaren MCL35M diffuser detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren came up with a novel solution to recover lost downforce triggered by new F1 aero rules this year.

The change of regulations for 2021 required that the vertical strakes be 50mm shorter. But McLaren realised that by connecting the most central strakes to the diffuser's central transition, it could retain the lower format, albeit with some restrictions on their overall shape.

No -one else has taken up the idea but the MCL35M continues to feature the design, suggesting that even with them assimilating various other solutions seen elsewhere, this still works well.

McLaren MCL35M floor comparison

McLaren MCL35M floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren had been the first team to publicly test a variation on the new floor rules when it trialled a tapered floor edge at the Belgian GP in 2020.

Clearly happy with its optimisation of this, it began the season with a similar design, while the rest of the grid jumped on the Z-Shaped floor cut out solution.

Late adopters, McLaren became the eighth team to switch to the cut out when it installed its variant at the Spanish GP.

McLaren MCL35M floor deflectors detail

McLaren MCL35M floor deflectors detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This was followed up at the Austrian GP as the team introduced a cluster of fins between the sidepod and edge of the floor in order to better manage the airflow's path toward the cut out and optimise the flow around the car's rear tyre.

Sandwiched between the floor updates, the team made a new rear wing design available too, featuring a horizontal louvred panel at the base of the rear wing endplate where ordinarily teams would have a row of vertical strakes.

While McLaren might have adapted it for use at the lower end of the endplate, it's a feature that already had a home in the overhanging section of the endplate above, albeit inverted.

McLaren MCL35M endplate

McLaren MCL35M endplate

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Interestingly it's a design concept that was introduced by Haas when the regulations first changed back in 2019. It has since found its way on to several cars as they look for ways to improve downforce and reduce drag.

McLaren has had several more changes throughout the season as it looks to keep a firm foothold in the championship, with chassis horns being added in France alongside a new sidepod and engine cover package that tightened the MCL35M's rear end even further.

This resulted in a smaller rear cooling outlet for when demands aren't high, allowing for some aerodynamic gains along the way.

When temperatures are higher there's also now the option for the team to use louvred cooling panels beside the driver to help keep things cool before having to switch to a larger rear outlet.

McLaren MCL35M bargeboards

McLaren MCL35M bargeboards

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team also made changes to its bargeboard cluster for the Hungarian GP (old specification inset), with the upper boomerang becoming more of a prominent feature and the lowermost chicken wing taking up a secondary role.

In order to extract the most from the MCL35M, the team had developed a new front and rear wing arrangement for the Italian GP, both of which were put to good use when defending from the Red Bull and Mercedes cars during the race.

The front wing was all about the balancing effect of running a much lower downforce rear wing, with a section of the upper flap trimmed away as the team had likely run out of adjustment from its standard configuration.

McLaren MCL35M Monza front wing

McLaren MCL35M Monza front wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ordinarily teams will change the incidence of the front wing flaps with the adjuster, but when they have them fully relaxed we'll often see them trim the uppermost flap to take more wing out.

The team introduced a rear wing that would be considered to be normal Monza fare, with a conventional shaped mainplane and top flap that takes up considerably less space within the permissible box region than some of its other offerings.

This aids top speed but also retains the DRS advantage. When it was in use, the rear wing's upper flap was also trimmed along the trailing edge.

shares
comments

Related video

Red Bull and Honda confirm collaboration plans from 2022

Previous article

Red Bull and Honda confirm collaboration plans from 2022

Next article

F1 medical car crew replaced after positive COVID tests

F1 medical car crew replaced after positive COVID tests
Load comments
Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material Plus

Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull Plus

How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be another close contest

The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen Plus

The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen

The 2021 Formula 1 title battle is finely poised with six races remaining, as just six points separate championship leader Max Verstappen from seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. In such a closely-fought season, the outcome could hinge on several small factors playing the way of Red Bull or Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021
Can Whitmarsh appointment help Aston succeed where its F1 rivals failed? Plus

Can Whitmarsh appointment help Aston succeed where its F1 rivals failed?

Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll is determined to make the group a billion-dollar business. MARK GALLAGHER analyses his latest play – bringing former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh into the fold

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021
Remembering Switzerland’s first F1 winner Plus

Remembering Switzerland’s first F1 winner

Stepping up to F1 in 1962, Jo Siffert shone with Rob Walker Racing Team and BRM before his career was abruptly ended in a fatal crash at Brands Hatch in 1971. On the 50th anniversary of his death, Autosport recalls the career of an F1 and sportscar ace gone before his time

Formula 1
Oct 21, 2021
What Verstappen is risking with his current stance on 2021 F1 world title defeat Plus

What Verstappen is risking with his current stance on 2021 F1 world title defeat

OPINION: Max Verstappen is back in the lead of the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ championship, with the season’s final flyaway events set to get underway in the USA this weekend. But a defensive stance he’s recently adopted could have a lasting impact for the Red Bull driver when it comes to his chances of defeating Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 21, 2021
The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest Plus

The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest

Despite appearing to adjust to life as a Ferrari driver with relative ease, it was far from straightforward under the surface for Carlos Sainz Jr. But, having made breakthroughs in rather different routes at the Russian and Turkish races, he’s now targeting even greater feats for the rest of the Formula 1 season

Formula 1
Oct 20, 2021
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021