Why the McLaren MCL35M will be F1 2021's most different car

When McLaren pulls the covers off its new MCL35M at its Woking factory this evening, the expectation is of it being Formula 1's most different car of 2021

Why the McLaren MCL35M will be F1 2021's most different car

With teams forced to carry over their chassis from last season to this one, as part of cost-saving measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the scope for radical overhauls are quite limited.

McLaren's switch from Renault to Mercedes engines, however, has forced it to do quite a lot with its upgraded car.

With power unit packaging being a core component of current F1 design, and manufacturers each having unique approaches to their overall concept, McLaren has had to make some significant changes.

That much was made clear by the team last month when it talked about where its focus had been over the winter.

"Whereas every other team will carry over most of its car from last year into this year, our switch to the Mercedes power unit means that's not the case for us," said McLaren production director Piers Thynne.

"It's driven a huge amount of change and, essentially, we've been building a new car. The number of new parts on the MCL35M is about the same as when we built the MCL35."

But while the extensive changes to the chassis, gearbox housing, cooling layout and electrics have all been prompted by the Mercedes move, McLaren will not be immune to other factors forced on other teams.

The main challenge thrown at everyone is the new aero rules that have been introduced by the FIA to cut downforce - and help limit some of the stresses being put through tyres.

The changes to the floor and rear of the car have a much bigger impact on car performance than how they look - and could well become a talking point in the early part of the year.

For McLaren, they come against the backdrop of its targeting some key areas of improvement for the MCL35M which it hopes will help it try to repeat its top three finish in the constructors' championship.

For while the car was strong in high-speed corners and under braking, there were some inherent weaknesses that it hopes to address.

Speaking about these, technical director James Key said: "I think in terms of weaknesses, we still need to improve ourselves a bit in low speed. It's not quite as weak as it was [in 2019], and that was one of the big pushes to try and improve that low speed, balance and consistency that we had in certain types of low speed corners.

"Then, in some conditions, the car doesn't perform quite as well as we'd like it to - and that's in some weather conditions or some grip conditions, which we can kind of see in the data."

McLaren is set to reveal its new car in a launch at 7pm UK time. For the latest news and insight from the launch, follow Autosport.

shares
comments
Red Bull to take over Honda F1 power unit operation from 2022

Previous article

Red Bull to take over Honda F1 power unit operation from 2022

Next article

From the archive: The greatest Mercedes you've never heard of

From the archive: The greatest Mercedes you've never heard of
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams McLaren
Author Jonathan Noble
The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition Plus

The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition

In 2017 new F1 technical regulations were supposed to add drama - and peg Mercedes back. STUART CODLING looks at the car which, while troubled, set the stage for the wide-bodied Formula 1 era

The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return Plus

The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return

Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Plus

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

Formula 1
Apr 12, 2021
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Plus

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says NIGEL ROEBUCK

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Are we at peak F1 right now? Plus

Are we at peak F1 right now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021 Plus

How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021

The longer Red Bull can maintain a performance edge over Mercedes, the better the odds will be in the team’s favour against the defending world champions. But as the Bahrain Grand Prix showed, many more factors will be critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship

Formula 1
Apr 7, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Plus

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021