Following on from a successful 2020 Formula 1 campaign, McLaren are seeking to improve their low speed performance for the upcoming season.
McLaren enjoyed reasonable success with their MCL35 during 2020. And while the performance of the car varied from track to track, dependent on weather conditions and track layout. Overall, it proved to be a strong enough contender to help the team secure third in the Constructors’ Championship.
However, while the MCL35 enjoyed many solid aspects in performance. Two noticeable key areas that would continue to be a thorn in the team’s side was the unreliability during windy conditions and the lack of efficiency during low speed cornering.
Speaking to motorsport.com, McLaren Technical Director James Key touched on the downfalls of the MCL35 and how they will be looking to rectify the problem for 2021’s MCL35M.
“I think our strengths have been typically the high-speed corners,” Key said. “Certainly from the beginning of the season, we were very competitive in the medium and higher speed corners.
“Straight line braking has been another strength of ours as well, which benefited us on some tracks – like Austria for example.
“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.
“We need to understand that actually, but it’s not one of those overnight fixes. So that’s what we’re really targeting. I think if we can iron some of that out, we’ll have a more consistent car from one race to the next.”
The wind effect
While cars will react and perform differently from week-to-week based on numerous factors, for the most part, key characteristics should remain the same.
One unwanted characteristic that plagued the MCL35 was its inability to tolerate gusty conditions. Affecting both Lando Norris and former driver Carlos Sainz Jr. during practice sessions and more importantly, qualifying.
“It has been a bit of an issue for us,” Key continued. “We think we’ve pinned it down to one thing, which is just a characteristic of the car that we need to iron out.
“But with all these things, there’s no silver bullet – you just have to work on it. But there is an element of probably being a bit more affected by it than others, positively as well as negatively, depending on the direction of the wind.
“Every car, of course, suffers from this. Our drivers have said they’ve seen cars ahead locking up and having troubles as well [when it is windy], so I think it affects everyone.
“But possibly on occasion, when it’s been in the wrong direction or affected a certain corner a certain way, it has had a worst effect on us.”