While many of the constructor’s cars will remain much the same for the 2021 Formula 1 season, the McLaren MCL35M will be rather different to its predecessor.
With the announcement that McLaren would be switching from a Renault to Mercedes power unit for 2021, it was widely discussed throughout the recent Formula 1 season that there would be integral changes to the McLaren car going forward.
One of the main changes for the MCL35M will be a brand new chassis in order to accommodate the new power unit, gearbox and other inclusive parts and equipment.
McLaren F1 Technical Director James Key spoke on the major changes the team will be undertaking during the offseason.
“As part of very sensible cost-saving measures for the sport in the wake of covid-19, next year’s cars will be closely based on their 2020 predecessors,” Key said. “But while there is stability in that sense, there are changes in the regulations for next year that require some unique developments beyond what we would have normally done. Rather than take a design, refine it, and explore concepts and ideas that could be compatible with the new car, we’ve had to substantially re-engineer some areas to adapt to regulation changes that are aimed at reducing the downforce of the cars. Every team is trying to recover as much of that downforce as it can, and this will continue into 2021 with aero development permitted next year.
“The other big change heading into next year, which is unique to us, is the new power unit. We can’t just carry over the chassis from 2020. We’ve had to do a lot of redesigning, especially when it comes to various systems on the car, such as cooling and electronics. Not only will the chassis be different, the gearbox will be too and, of course, the engine, so the MCL35M is akin to a new car for us.”
McLaren have had to utilise a large number of their development tokens due to the new power unit configuration being significantly different to that of the previous Renault engine. Development tokens were brought into play to in effect, limit the amount of progress and changes a team can make to their car.
With the knowledge that they would be forced to use these tokens for what the team is hoping will be an upgrade to their on-track power, McLaren were forced to bring in certain upgrades during the 2020 season that ordinarily may have been held off.
“Having to spend 2021 development tokens on the Mercedes engine installation changed our approach when it came to developments this season,” Key continued. “But the upshot of it is that we probably added a bit of performance in 2020 that we normally wouldn’t have and there’s scope to develop these areas further based on all the information we’ve gathered.”