Last March, F1 has announced that the teams would use their 2020 cars in 2021 to save on development costs, after the very difficult situation for the teams and the sport related to the COVID-19 pandemic that is still in full effect.
With the token system in place, the teams were allowed to use two of them for the development of major car upgrades, which McLaren needed to use in order to fit the new Mercedes power unit, even thought the switch from Renault to Mercedes was planned before the freeze of the car developments was announced. While most of the teams kept around 60% of their 2020 for 2021, McLaren revealed the switch of their power unit meant the majority of the 2021 MCL35M chassis needed to be brand new.
As said by the McLaren production director Piers Thynne: “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. 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. There are some significant elements of carryover as we enter the cost cap. The FIA created a list of Transitional Carry Over (TCO) components that are outside of this year’s cost cap. These are parts that can be used in 2021 if they were run on last year’s car. We’ve pushed these TCO regulations to the absolute maximum to allow us to carry over as much as possible, such as gearbox internals and some suspension components, and therefore not have to use a portion of our 2021 budget on their design and production.”
The design of the MCL35M has been homologated in December, and the McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo will experience it in the pre-season testing in March. The team has now full focus on the design of the 2022 car, since the window for the aerodynamic development opened on the 1st of January. Speaking of the 2022 car development, Thynne said: “In terms of the actual production of the ’22 car, it’s very early days and the focus is predominantly on parts to be tested in the wind tunnel. As the aerodynamic design matures we’ll make more and more aero components for wind tunnel testing. These tests are really important: it’s all about establishing what works and what doesn’t because when we do come to build the ’22 car we want it to be right first time. The test pieces should push the boundaries aerodynamically because that’s how you gain performance. If they work, then great. If they don’t, we can always take a step back for the actual production part. You need to shoot for the stars and that’s exactly what were doing to get back to the front of the grid.”