McLaren’s switch to Mercedes power for 2021 means its MCL35M has almost as many new components as its predecessor, despite stable Formula 1 regulations, and a restriction on development.
McLaren initially signed a long-term agreement with Mercedes to coincide with Formula 1 introducing overhauled technical regulations.
But the Covid-19 pandemic led to Formula 1, the FIA and teams to unanimously agree to defer the new regulations by 12 months.
It means teams have been limited in what can be changed aerodynamically, outside of the mandated alterations relating to downforce cuts, with a token system introduced.
McLaren is the only team to have changed power unit partner during the off-season, having realigned with Mercedes, rekindling a partnership that ran from 1995 through 2014.
“Whereas every other team will carry over most of its car from last year into this year, our switch to the Mercedes power unit means that’s not the case for us,” said McLaren’s Production Director Piers Thynne.
“It’s driven a huge amount of change and, essentially, we’ve been building a new car. The number of new parts on the MCL35M is about the same as when we built the MCL35.
“The back of the chassis and gearbox bell housing around the engine have changed significantly to adapt to the new power unit.
“Changing power unit greatly alters the architecture of the car and the way everything is packaged, so the entire cooling layout and all the pipework – be that for fluid or air – has changed, along with all electrical harnessing and control boxes.”
Thynne also provided an update with the progress of the MCL35M with two months to go until the first race weekend of 2021.
“We are on plan with a lot of things,” he said. “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.”