McLaren’s shift to Mercedes powertrains means it has designed “essentially a new car” for 2021, despite the stability of Formula 1 regulations.
F1 announced last March that teams will continue to use their 2020 cars in 2021 to save on development costs, helping financially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams were allowed to use two development tokens for major improvements to the car, which McLaren was forced to spend to install the new Mercedes power pack, after planning the change for 2021 before the postponement was announced.
While most teams have kept around 60% of their 2020 cars for 2021, McLaren revealed that the scale of the Mercedes power pack switch means the majority of its MCL35M chassis is brand new.
“While all the other teams will postpone most of their car from last year to this year, our move to the Mercedes powertrain means that is not the case for us,” said the McLaren production manager. , Piers Thynne.
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“It made a lot of changes and basically we built a new car. The number of new parts on the MCL35M is about the same as when we built the MCL35.
“The rear of the chassis and the gearbox housing around the engine have changed dramatically to accommodate the new powertrain.
“The change of power unit drastically changes the architecture of the car and the way everything is packaged, so that the whole cooling setup and all the piping, whether for the fluid or the air , changed, as well as all electrical harnesses and control boxes.
“There are important elements of carry-over when we get into the cost cap.
“The FIA has created a list of Transitional Transfer Components (TCOs) that are outside of this year’s cost cap. These are parts that can be used in 2021 if they were used on last year’s car.
“We have taken these TCO regulations to the absolute maximum to allow us to defer as much as possible, such as gearbox internals and some suspension components, and therefore not having to use part of our 2021 budget for their design and their production. “
McLaren approved the design of the MCL35M in December, with drivers Lando Norris and newcomer Daniel Ricciardo set to try it out for the first time during pre-season testing in March.
The focus of the team has now shifted to designing its 2022 car since the aerodynamic development window opened on January 1.
Thynne said McLaren was “able to get started” with the wind tunnel program for its 2022 car.
“As far as actual production of the ’22 car goes, it’s very early days and the main focus is on the parts to be tested in the wind tunnel,” Thynne said.
“As the aerodynamic design matures, we will be manufacturing more and more aerodynamic components for wind tunnel testing.
“These tests are really important: it’s about figuring out what works and what doesn’t, because when it comes to building car 22, we want it to be right the first time.
“Test parts have to push the limits aerodynamically, because that’s how you gain performance. If they work, great. Otherwise, we can always take a step back for the actual production part.
“You have to aim for the stars and that’s exactly what we were doing to get back to the top of the grid.”