McLaren on 'new' 2021 car after Mercedes switch and challenge of 2022

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McLaren admits their change from Renault to Mercedes engines means they will have "akin to a new car" next year.

Due to Covid-19, key areas of car development have been frozen for 2021, in particular the chassis, gearbox and suspension, to reduce costs.

As the only team to be changing engine supplier however, McLaren has been given permission to make the necessary changes but it will cost them the development tokens which their rivals have to improve other parts of their cars.

“The big change heading into next year, which is unique to us, is the new power unit. We can’t just carry over the chassis from 2020,” McLaren technical director James Key told MotorsportWeek.

“We’ve had to do a lot of redesigning, especially when it comes to various systems on the car, such as cooling and electronics. Not only will the chassis be different, but the gearbox will be too, and of course the engine, so the MCL35M is akin to a new car for us.

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“Having to spend 2021 development tokens on the Mercedes engine installation changed our approach when it came to developments this season,” he added.

“But the upshot of it is that we probably added a bit of performance in 2020 that we normally wouldn’t have and there’s scope to develop these areas further based on all the information we’ve gathered.”

Of course, next year, every team is expected to give the vast majority of their resources and attention on designing the all-new cars coming for 2022.

And McLaren, who see the regulations as their best chance to close the gap to Mercedes and Red Bull, are excited by the challenge that lies ahead.

"Everyone had got to a pretty advanced stage before the aero development freeze kicked in this year," Key said initially.

"We’ve got plenty of developments to look at and lots of new concepts floating around. We’ll be back in the wind tunnel immediately at the start of next year to continue work on the ’22 car.


"There’s a real blank sheet of paper approach to the ’22 car. The chassis regulations are fundamentally different, and the wheels and tyres are changing too. We’ve been working on it for some time now.

“It’s always a great challenge having significantly different technical regulations to work to. They represent a fresh start and provide new opportunities for design and development, which as engineers is incredibly motivating."

Asked what will be the first priority when work on the 2022 cars begins again in full, the McLaren chief explained...

“The development freeze bought everyone a bit of thinking time. It allowed us to take a step back and really analyse the data and what we’ve done.

“It’s still early days though. There’s plenty more to learn about what the true potential of a ‘22 F1 car is, and this learning process will continue for a while.

“2021 will be a busy year with a full season to complete, the MCL35M to develop and race, and new discoveries to make with our ‘22 contender as it evolves. We can’t wait for it to start!”