Change and continuity is a bit of a summary of winter 2020/21 from McLaren’s side.
While the technical regulations are part of a certain form of stability, despite significant aerodynamic adjustments at the rear of the flat bottom, the British team is undoubtedly the one that had to modify its 2020 chassis the most.
The reason has been known for a long time: the return to the Mercedes fold on the engine front after 3 years of stormy partnership with Honda followed by 3 seasons of reconstruction in the Renault clan.
” The switch to the Mercedes propellant resulted in a number of significant changes, explains Piers Thynne, production manager at McLaren in an article published on the official website of Woking (UK).
Basically it’s like producing a new single-seater. The number of parts on the MCL35M is similar to what was found last year when the MCL35 was built.
The rear of the frame and the gearbox around the engine are areas that have changed significantly in order to accommodate the new Power Unit. Switching from one engine to another greatly changes the architecture of the car, the way in which the various piping and cooling elements, the control boxes and the electrical installation are arranged. “.
McLaren had to devote at this transition the 2 development tokens allocated by the regulations. The British team also had to submit their revamped chassis to a new homologation by the FIA.
” It’s always a major step, continues Thynne. It’s a stressful and tense time for a lot of people on the team. We were the only team concerned this winter because the others kept their 2020 chassis.
Thanks to good collective work, our new car was approved on time in December. The process was hardly different from previous years, although it was necessary to adapt to the health situation. The FIA was unable to physically travel to attend the crash test. Instead, they followed the operation live by videoconference “.
Thynne also explains how the team had to adapt to design and produce a Formula 1 car in the midst of a pandemic.
” We were confronted with this new situation early enough because we put in place a strict health protocol from the 1st confinement in order to be able to develop and build respiratory assistance devices., he recalls.
A lot of things are done teleworking, which means an increasing number of online meetings. We also separated and spread the time slots in the production team to prevent the factory from having to shut down completely if it tested positive.
MTC (McLaren Technology Center, Editor’s note) has been further divided into separate areas and employees are strongly encouraged not to leave theirs. When it comes to moving a part from one place to another, we have relay points that prevent any human interaction. “.
Beyond health measures, Thynne recognizes that the genesis of MCL35M comes with many challenges to overcome, but he sees it as a sign of a healthy development process.
” If you don’t have any problems, it’s because you’re not aggressive enough, sums up the production manager. If everything seems easy and crystal clear, it’s because you’re letting go of performance by not pushing the limits enough.
The real challenge is not to give birth to the car but to develop it constantly and as quickly as possible. Avoid allocating time and resources to develop parts for launch when you could have used these means to anticipate future evolutions to the latest specifications “.
After finishing 3rd in the last Manufacturers’ standings, McLaren, with its new Mercedes propellant and the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo alongside Lando Norris, has high ambitions in 2021. As always in F1, we will have to wait for the verdict of the lead on whether Woking has done a good job this winter.