McLaren is aware it has a car which can once again claim third place in the Constructor’s Championship, but the margins to those behind remain very tight and it is therefore locked into a development battle to ensure it maintains its slim lead.
The potential of the MCL35M has been exploited by Lando Norris, who has secured three top-five finishes in the opening three events, and currently sits an impressive third in the Drivers’ Championship.
Overall the MCL35M has shown a certain consistency in its performance and being equipped with the Mercedes Power Unit has also helped the Woking team to express great power, especially on fast tracks like this weekend’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The team arrived in Spain with a brand new floor, which sees it jump on the growing ‘Z-floor’ trend, which over the half the grid have now adopted. This floor concept allows for greater downforce to be generated by the vortices, which try and mimic a sort of pneumatic mini-skirt. The team have also added two auxiliary vortex generators.
In Imola (Round 2), McLaren already introduced an update to its floor, with the addition of a curved auxiliary element immediately ahead of the rear wheel (below in green). This helps to dampen the impact the rear wheel has on disturbing air flow as it generates a lot of turbulence.
However the floor itself remained fairly undeveloped, with a flat edge. This is a very basic interpretation of the technical regulations, unlike McLaren’s diffuser, which is a very clever solution that skirts the absolute edge of the rules.
The new floor was only used by Norris in FP1, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo had the new specification available in FP2.
For McLaren, the updates for the Spanish GP were not limited to the debut of a new floor but also a new front wing, revised in the main plane and in the spoiler at the top.
The two drivers carried out comparative tests between the two solutions, with the new one having a more horizontal outer part in the endplate area. McLaren, like Ferrari, AlphaTauri and other teams, is one of those cars that prefers the outwash philosophy the most, shielding the front wheels from the flow of air in an outward direction (see below comparison).
For the Woking team there are also new micro-aerodynamics in the diffuser area, and already in Portugal the winglets of the brake ducts had been slightly revised, also subject to surface reductions from 2021. Andreas Seidl’s team will push hard on the development of this MCL35M before late summer, and then set the development aside for 2022 starting from the Turkish GP.