McLaren had a very solid start of the season and is solidly in third position in the constructors' championship after four races.
The team was able to introduce incremental updates at the Portuguese and Spanish Grands Prix, as it aims at keeping alive the battle with Ferrari for the best of the rest title behind the apparently unreachable Mercedes and Red Bull.
Indeed, as Team Principal Andreas Seidl suggested during the post-race conference last weekend, they are expecting “a season-long battle with Ferrari" for third in the Constructors' Championship.
Given the newly-introduced budget cap, all F1 teams will have to start shift resources and efforts towards the new 2022 rule. However, McLaren's technical team, led by technical director James Key, is still planning to add further upgrades to its MCL35M.
For example, during the Spanish GP the Woking’s team has run FP1 and FP2 with some tweaks to their front wing to suit a higher-downforce configuration, whilst trying out a new floor following the example set by rivals.
"If you look since the first test this year onwards we simply tried to continuously bring updates to the car, to make continuously steps forward with the performance," team principal Seidl said at the Spanish Grand Prix.
“We've brought upgrades to Portimao, we've brought updates for the car also here in free practice. And our plan is to still bring further updates also in the coming races."
The German team principal revealed that McLaren will soon switch its efforts to 2022 – in his own words, the change of focus to next year "isn't far away" and the upcoming updates to the MCL35M will largely revolve around "low-hanging fruit" i.e., smaller upgrades that can bring clear performance benefits without needing large resources to implement.
"At the same time it's also clear that we are not far away from switching over completely the entire team, entire development team, to fully focusing on next year's car," Seidl added.
However, the Woking squad still have some aces up their sleeves.
"So I still think it will depend in the end if there's still any low hanging fruit around for this year's car in terms of development, which we then want to further explore.
"But overall I think James [Key] has a clear idea of when he wants to fully switch over to next year."
The English team clearly surprised everyone with such an amazing start of the season but Seidl admitted that bringing further upgrades to this year's challenger will be pivotal if the team wants to beat Ferrari to third in the championship.
Indeed, after a very tough campaign last year, the Scuderia seems to be back on the right path and, based on what Ferrari's Mattia Binotto claimed "they solved race day weaknesses in Spain" and, in fact, they were able of outperforming the McLaren’s squad.
"It's obviously a very tight battle, especially with Ferrari, and it's simply important to make sure we keep bringing upgrades to the car in the next races in order to keep this battle of P3 alive."