McLaren technical director James Key has praised the support the team has received from Mercedes ahead of their engine switch.
McLaren announced in late-2019 that they would switch from Renault to Mercedes power for the ’21 season, which would have been a relatively straight-forward move given the planned introduction of brand new cars.
However with the arrival of the pandemic, plans to introduce new cars were pushed back to ’22, meaning McLaren have been forced to redesign their ’20 chassis to fit the Mercedes power unit which has complicated matters.
Key though says Mercedes has been “extremely supportive” in aiding the team, not only with the integration of the engine, but also with the shorter timescales involved due to development freezes and prolonged factory shutdowns.
“We’re in reasonable shape, I think,” Key told the F1 Nation podcast. “We’re where we would expect to be at this time of year, despite the obvious delays we’ve had.
“Normally we’d want to start earlier than we did. We obviously didn’t start as early as we’d liked to have… but I think we caught up well.
“The interaction with Mercedes has been fantastic; they’ve been extremely supportive, recognised the fact that we had short timescales. We talk to them weekly. We’ve worked with them very effectively over the past few months. And I think we’re where we’d expect to be with the maturity of the engine installation and the parts that we’re already making for ’21.”
McLaren’s ’21 car will be called the MCL35M – the same as last year but with an ‘M’ added for Mercedes – as it remains largely unchanged in terms of design.
However there are some key areas of development which have been mandated by the FIA wanting to cut downforce levels by 10 per cent. The floor and diffuser have had to be redesigned and Key is hopeful they’ve managed to claw back some of those losses.
“That’s still a work in progress,” he added. “We’ve had this project going for a while, although the total regulations, the aero changes for 2021 were quite late. We’re clawing it back.
“It was a reasonably big hit to begin with. Floor changes from the side profile of the floor which will be quite obvious on the 2021 car; small diffuser, rear brake ducts – they all influence a complex area of aerodynamics around the rear tyre and really it’s a case of trying to pull that back as best we can, and we are making progress every week at the moment, but there’s still some work to do.”