First look: How the 2021 McLaren-Mercedes compares with MCL35

McLaren’s MCL35M became the first 2021 Formula 1 car to hit the track on Tuesday when Lando Norris began a filming day at a wet Silverstone.

While the car, which is designed around a Mercedes engine rather than the Renault used last year, looks fairly similar to last year's model, there are some intriguing differences that can be seen close up.

It arrives on the back of a relatively successful season for McLaren, finishing in third place in the constructors’ standings.

The car has had to undergo a raft of changes as the team made the switch to the Mercedes-AMG M12 Performance power unit, all while having to stay within the homologation and token system imposed by the FIA that limits changes from last year’s design.  

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

Read Also:

A change in power unit means a total rethink in terms of its installation, which not only appears to have had an impact on the car's overall wheelbase but also the architectural choices taken by the team when it comes to cooling. Let’s compare the two cars from above (old MCL35 on the left, new MCL35M on the right)…

McLaren MCL35
McLaren MCL35M

It has clearly been a priority for the team, as being able to slim down the bodywork around the cooling components will pay back yet further when we consider how the new rules have taken away a large portion of the floor ahead of the rear tyre.

The floor seen on the MCL35M features the new tapered cutout ahead of the rear tyre, while also employing a small flapped section to help influence the wake generated by the tyre behind. The solution here seems simplistic and it’s an area of the car that’s sure to be exposed to plenty of new ideas throughout the season, especially as it yields an opportunity to increase the potency of the diffuser too.

I suspect we will see McLaren make changes here fairly early on – after all, McLaren was the first team to be seen testing a 2021 specification floor, when it conducted tests at the Belgian GP.

Let’s take a look at some individual details around that new power unit…

McLaren MCL35M side pods and air box detail

McLaren MCL35M side pods and air box detail

Photo by: McLaren

Conceptually the sidepods are similar to its predecessor but the MCL35M’s bodywork is tucked in much tighter, with significant contouring to the upper forward portion of the sidepod, which leads to a more pronounced curvature as the bodywork falls over the radiators housed within.

This is made even more apparent by the inclusion of a large louvred panel alongside the halo, which has also had its fairing modified to inflict a different aerodynamic effect.

The transit of airflow around the car’s midriff will also be modified owing to the tighter sculpting that’s most noticeable at the point where the suspension pullrod meets the bodywork (bottom left inset in the image above), as McLaren has applied a blister at this point to accommodate where the floor and sidepods meet. 

McLaren MCL35
McLaren MCL35M

The roll hoop and airbox have also been revised and repackaged with the new power unit and cooling demands in mind, as the team has employed a triangular twin-spar arrangement similar to Mercedes and reduced the size of the lower inlet.

Read Also:

These studio photos always tell a different story when compared with the real-life counterpart, so let’s turn our attention towards the image where Ricciardo and Norris posed with the car that they both drove at Silverstone on Tuesday…

Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

For a diminutive fella, Norris has done a fine job of being strategically placed in order to obfuscate the key area around the sidepods! It’s clear that although the studio images have a deflector array akin to the one used in the early part of 2020, the MCL35M features the venetian blind-style horizontal slats that were used toward the end of last year's campaign.

There are further changes to the bargeboard cluster too, but all of this aerodynamic furniture is likely to change before the season even gets underway.

McLaren MCL35
McLaren MCL35M

As we can see above, the same can be said for the front wing, nose and floor too. All of these items are more or less what we have seen from the team last season, whether it be in terms of racing for the front wing and nose, or testing in the case of the floor. 

McLaren MCL35M rear wing detail

McLaren MCL35M rear wing detail

Photo by: McLaren

Another area of interest is the rear wing endplates. McLaren has taken cues from its competitors, assimilating both the louvred hanging-strake design first seen on the Haas and altering the upper leading edge of the endplate, which Alpha Tauri first introduced.

Both of these help the aerodynamicists to challenge the regulatory changes made in 2019 that removed the louvres from the upper front quarter of the endplate and help to mitigate the drag that the wing generates.

McLaren MCL35
McLaren MCL35M
shares
comments

Related video

Alpine announces launch date for 2021 F1 car
Previous article

Alpine announces launch date for 2021 F1 car

Next article

Aston Martin reveals launch date for 2021 F1 car

Aston Martin reveals launch date for 2021 F1 car
Load comments
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021