Formula 1

McLaren’s 2021 challenger ‘essentially a new car’ thanks to Mercedes engine switch

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Credit: McLaren F1 Team

Although the 2021 regulations’ postponement to 2022 has meant car design for this season is near-identical to that of last year, McLaren F1 Team’s return to Mercedes-Benz engines has necessitated a significant remodel in the framework of their new challenger, with production director Piers Thynne referring to the build as ‘essentially a new car.’

As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the revolutionary new rules were pushed back a year and car design for the 2021 season was stunted- leading to an eventual carryover of the 2020 cars.

McLaren, however, find themselves in a unique scenario as they prepare to make the switch to Mercedes-power for this year’s championship, with the British marque recently revealing that the extent of the transition has called for a ‘significantly new car.’

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,” Thynne is quoted as saying by, when asked about the unusual circumstances. “It’s driven a huge amount of change and, essentially, we’ve been building a new car.

“The back of the chassis and gearbox bell housing around the engine have changed significantly to adapt to the new power unit, [which] greatly alters the architecture of the car and the way everything is packaged, so the entire cooling layout and all the pipework has changed, along with all electrical harnessing and control boxes.”

However, Thynne was quick to mention that not all elements of the MCL35M will be brand new. Thanks to the FIA’s list of Transitional Carry Over (TCO) components, a number of parts from last year will be used on the 2021 machine in preparation for the 2022 rule change.

There are some significant elements of carryover as we enter the cost cap and there are parts that can be used in 2021 if they were run on last year’s car,” he said.

“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.

“In terms of the actual production of the ’22 car, it’s very early days. 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 figuring out 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.”

After McLaren took a well-deserved P3 in the constructors’ standings last year, there’s a good chance that the new power courtesy of Mercedes can push them that little bit further up the grid in order to aid the historic outfit’s rebirth as a race-winning team once more. Thynne too expressed this optimism, stating that the revitalised team must ‘shoot for the stars to get back to the front of the grid.’

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