McLaren has been the first team to present their new car ahead of the 2021 season. They unveiled the new MCL35M to the world on Monday night, with a live-streamed event from their headquarters in Woking.
Together with the new car – which retains largely the same livery as last year, sticking with the usual papaya orange and blue design, albeit with some changes needed to accommodate the new Mercedes power unit, – the team has also presented their new drivers' line-up with the 31-year-old Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo joining Lando Norris.
"It's great to have finally joined the team after what feels like an age since we confirmed it last May, said Ricciardo.
"I'm thrilled to be a McLaren driver and super-keen to get started. McLaren has been on an awesome journey over the last few years, and I'm looking forward to helping the team maintain this positive momentum.
The former Red Bull and Renault driver made his debut behind the wheel of the new McLaren F1 car at Silverstone today. Both Ricciardo and teammate Lando Norris have completed run-outs in the new MCL35M – the M suggests the new McLaren-Mercedes engine partnership, - as permitted by the allocated filming days under the sporting regulations.
According to FIA regulations, teams are allowed to complete two filming days per season, neither of which is allowed to exceed 100km, which are equivalent to 17 laps of the Silverstone GP layout. These must also be conducted using Pirelli demo-tyres. Most teams choose to do at least one filming day per year to give their new cars a shakedown before the start of pre-season testing, which this year is set to begin in Bahrain on 12 March.
Ricciardo was asked which was the biggest challenge of fitting in at McLaren, he said:
“I think fitting in, in terms of feeling like you’re part of the team, integrated into the driving side but into all of it, into the engineering, into the strategy.
“I’ve already had so many meetings here at the MTC with not only my engineer but with the whole racing department. It’s feeling like you’re sitting in the room with a voice and with enough knowledge that what you say will be taken on board.
“That whole integration into all areas of the race team, that’s probably got a lot more power than just being the driver. I think feeling like you can sit in every room and have a presence, that’s probably the most important, but also the most difficult thing to get going.”
The team principal of the Woking-based team, Andrea Seidl says he is proud of how Norris has developed since joining McLaren back in 2017. He’s also convinced that Ricciardo’s arrival from the Renault F1 Team (now Alpine F1 Team) is a further demonstration of the kind of progress McLaren has shown in recent years.
In Seidl’s view, the team has secured itself one of the ‘most competitive’ duos on the grid.
“Daniel represents our next step as a team and his decision to join McLaren is a validation of the progress we’re making. As a proven race-winner and formidable competitor, Daniel brings energy and experience to push McLaren forward on our mission to the front of the field.
“Regarding the integration of Daniel, our goal is clear – we want to make sure that once we hit the track at Bahrain at the first race that it doesn’t feel like Daniel is doing the first race with us,” said Seidl of Ricciardo’s pre-season preparations. Ricciardo’s first experience of driving with the team is an important step in McLaren’s objective of ensuring he feels in sync with the car and as a team veteran by the time he has his first race outing in Bahrain at the end of March.
“We worked out a clear plan with a clear focus on the technical and operational side of each of the boxes we have to stick together with him to make sure he’s ready in Bahrain at the first race, in addition to plans that are also in place to integrate him on the commercial side, communication side, the marketing side of the team.
“We obviously had a lot of online sessions with him in order to make him familiar with the way we work with our car, with our systems and then in the last week Daniel was also on-site here, doing simulator sessions, seat fits and so on, with the engineers and mechanics in order to get ready and feel well-prepared.“Now it’s simply time to get back on track to get him into the car, to get his feedback.“I’m very happy with the preparation so far given the circumstances we are all in.”
The test didn’t mark only the seven-time-race winner debut in a McLaren, but also the first time the team will have run a Mercedes-powered F1 car on-track, since the end of their last partnership in 2014.
Despite the freeze in regulations for the 2021 season, McLaren has been forced to change a pretty significant amount of its car components to accommodate the new Mercedes power unit, which was previously supplied by Renault.
Despite Mercedes' reports about alleged issues with its new power unit for the new 2021 season, McLaren technical director James Key said the team had not yet had any problems.
"That's a question for Mercedes really, we couldn't answer that,"
"To date, we have done some full-scale testing on a dyno and that's been completely problem-free, but I would say Mercedes are definitely the best to answer that, to be honest"