McLaren continues to push ahead with the development of its 2020 contender, the MCL35, which of course must be carried over to the ’21 season under new rules agreed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The team has changed philosophy mid-season and believes it has found a development path that can unlock further performance as it seeks to continue its upward trend into next year.
McLaren, which has scored two podiums this year, is aiming to finish third in the Constructors’ Championship – a position is currently holds – and has brought further aerodynamic updates in recent races to keep up with the leading cars and hopefully extend its gap over a very quick Racing Point team, and its engine supplier Renault, which in the last races of Spa, Monza, and Sochi has finished inside the points with both cars.
A new narrow nose was tested on the MCL35 in free practice at Mugello, very similar in shape to that of Mercedes and Renault, which was then used by Lando Norris for the entire Russian Grand Prix weekend.
The timing of its introduction is not only performance related, but also rules related as under the carryover rules for ’21, the FIA has set a deadline to carry out crash tests and homologation of certain parts, including the nose.
The new nose features closer pylons to reduce the air inlet section in the lower part of the frame, to further energise the airflow. The narrower pylons also allow for a greater area in which the Y250 vortex can act and reach the bargeboards. McLaren therefore seems to have given up on the cape with three openings it introduced a couple of years ago.
The new cape is inspired by reigning champions Mercedes. In the photo above, you can see the two versions, with Sainz (top) running the older version and Norris (bottom) the update.
McLaren is expected to run this new configuration on both cars going forward, as well as introducing further updates.
In addition to the new nose, McLaren has combined this technical innovation with a modification to the front wing in the Y250 area, again exclusively run by Norris. The flap in the new specification is no longer anchored to the main plane, but becomes an independent element.
The shape of the main plane in the curved area is also slightly different. However, the McLaren wing continues to follow the out wash approach, as we can see in the illustration, with the outermost flaps becoming more neutral towards the endplate.
Between Silverstone and Monza on the single-seater designed by James Key there were also changes to the bargeboards. First at Silverstone, in the part below the boomerang, two flow conveyors bent upwards appeared, which keep the air adhered to the main diverter of the bargeboards. After this modification, elements with horizontal extension were also added in Monza, very similar to the Red Bull and Mercedes solution.
During the season, McLaren also used different versions of the engine cover, with adaptations depending on the type of circuit and the temperatures. The double T-Wing has also been used on medium to high load tracks and a small aerodynamic profile in the terminal part of the engine cover.
Micro-aerodynamic changes during this 2020 season concern the bottom and diffuser. In the first race in Austria on the MCL35 the terminal part of the extractor was modified, with the profiles that have maintained a more rounded shape than the wedge shape of the tests.
McLaren also benefited from a Renault Power Unit which is currently more powerful than those offered by Honda and Ferrari, although Mercedes largely maintains its performance advantage.
The MCL35 achieved podiums in Austria and Monza, two low-load tracks, with excellent top speed on the straights, confirming that the MCL35 also has excellent aerodynamic efficiency and low drag. For the 2021 season there will be the transition to the Mercedes Power Unit, which could give the definitive push for Zak Brown’s team to return to the top of F1 despite the financial crisis that McLaren has gone through.