McLaren technical director James Key praised the relationship with their new engine supplier Mercedes and also revealed how their new car is developing due to the new power unit and how they stand with the aerodynamic development with the new rules.
After three years with Honda and three years with Renault, McLaren is returning to the Mercedes engines they used in the first year of the hybrid turbo era in 2014 after they finished in third place in 2020 which is their best result since 2012 when they also finished third.
The cars will be very similar to last year’s because they have to use the same chassis and the set of areas where teams are allowed to develop cars is limited, which is why all teams are awarded two development tokens.
McLaren will have to spend its tokens to adapt last year’s chassis to the new engine, which requires a new gearbox and different mounting points on the chassis for their new engine.
“We’re in a reasonable shape, I think,” Key said for F1 Nation podcast.
“We’re where we’d expect to be at this time of year despite the obvious delays we’ve had earlier this year.”
“In a normal situation, we’d like to start development sooner than we did, but we couldn’t. But I think we’ve caught up pretty well.”
“The interaction with Mercedes has been fantastic, they have been a great support to us and they have recognized the fact that we have such a narrow time frame. We have been working with them very effectively in recent months.”
“I think we’re where we expected to be when it comes to installing the engine and we’re already making new parts.”
The new rules for 2021 include narrower floor dimensions in front of the rear wheels and shorter diffuser strakes that should bring about a 10% reduction in downforce levels ahead of a major 2022 rule change that will bring much greater downforce losses for, hopefully, better racing.
“We’re still working on it even though the full rules for 2021 came pretty late,” Key commented on McLaren’s progress with a new car which will be called MCL35M.
“We’re clawing it back, but it was a pretty big hit to start with. The changes on the side profiles of the floor will be pretty obvious on the 2021 cars, as well as the small diffuser, rear brake cooling ducts – all affecting the complex aerodynamics around the rear tyres as we try to restore performance as best we can. ”
“We’re making progress from week to week, but we still have more work to do.”
In addition to Mercedes engines, McLaren has signed Daniel Ricciardo for 2021 and now the team has a multiple F1 race winner again after two seasons.