McLaren: The challenges of building the MCL35M

McLaren: The challenges of building the MCL35M

With the reveal of the MCL35M set for February 15th, McLaren F1 Production Director Piers Thynne discusses the challenges faced during the team’s 2021 build.

2020 was a year that was tough on all F1 personnel due to a compressed racing season. That hectic pace has continued into the offseason, with McLaren currently working on its MCL35M.

McLaren recently revealed the Mercedes powered MCL35M fire up for the first time. And while there was no glimpse of the 2021 livery, it was nice to hear the new engine.

F1 Production Director Piers Thynne discussed some of the challenges faced when manufacturing the MCL35M.

“If you work in the production team, you work hard every single month of the year but when you really earn your money is in January and February: it’s the toughest time of the year,” Thynne said. “We are on plan with a lot of things. There are some challenges in certain areas at the moment – but that’s F1. If you’re not encountering any problems, then you’re probably not being aggressive enough. If everything is easy and straightforward it tends to mean you’re giving performance away because you’re not pushing the boundaries.

“The real challenge isn’t necessarily producing the launch car, it’s how you evolve from it by upgrading it as quickly as possible. The key is to not spend time and resource on anything that isn’t needed. If you make too many launch-spec parts, you’ve wasted capacity that could have been used to produce an upgrade to the latest specification.”

Working under Covid-19 restrictions

While teams had to operate under tight Covid-19 guidelines and protocols during the 2020 F1 season, this is the first time they have had to design and build cars in such a strict environment.

And, with limited staff numbers allowed into the McLaren Technology Centre, the team has faced the challenge of not having all staff present. Which has included a switch to more staff working remotely.

“The amount of remote working we do has risen massively and that’s meant plenty of video calls,” Thynne said. “For those members of the production team that work from the McLaren Technology Centre we run split shifts, be that early/late or day/night, so that if we have a covid-19 outbreak the whole production team wouldn’t be forced out of action.

“Normally, if you wanted to know something or find out how something was progressing you would just visit the relevant part of the MTC, but you can’t do that now – we have to be so strict with where our people go and when. Even though people can’t move freely around the MTC, the parts need to. We’ve sectioned the building into zones and the people in each zone are encouraged, wherever possible, to not go into another zone.

“Staying covid-safe is a huge challenge but everyone in the team has embraced the protocols and knows that they’re there to keep us all healthy. No one goes into the MTC unless there’s an absolute need, it’s been signed off by their manager and director, and they’ve been tested for covid-19. This has led to using video calls and photographs to allow team members working remotely to understand problems, so they can help find the right solutions.”


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