Sunday, February 28, 2021

The McLaren secrets revealed at its F1 shakedown

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While the digital only event meant that no photographers could get a close up look at the car itself, McLaren was still taking no chances when it came to hiding bits that it did not want people to see.

Concealment has long been a tradition when F1 teams wheel out their latest challengers, with parts covered up, missing or it being fitted with those bearing little resemblance to the ones that were actually intended for racing.

The MCL35M’s unveiling was no different as it was noticeable how the diffuser area of the car had been properly hidden in the official images revealed the launch.

Luckily for us though, the team used up one of its promotional / filming days at Silverstone on Tuesday – so we got a proper chance to see some of the aspects of the car that were not visible first time out.

Here is what we found out…


Hopes of finding out these design secrets were initially dashed when the images coming out of Silverstone continued to deliberately obscure the relevant parts of the car.

Camera angles of moving images and photos were either strictly from the front or side. Or the video view deliberately blocked out close-ups from specific areas of the car as it left the pitlane.

But, luck was on our side in the end, as footage released by the team later on allowed us to capture sight of the key areas of interest – especially those that revolve around the new aero rules for 2021.

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These changes are aimed at reducing downforce by approximately 10 percent and include a diagonal section of the floor cut out ahead of the rear tyres, with fully enclosed holes in the outer 100mm of the floor outlawed.

Furthermore, 40mm has been taken off the bottom half of the rear brake duct winglets and 50mm lopped off the bottom of the diffuser strakes.


Upon inspection of the MCL35M that took to the track at Silverstone, we can see it had a different bargeboard cluster, sidepod deflector array and a new floor.

The deflector array bears more of a resemblance with the one used by the team in the latter half of 2020 (below) but the forward most element now has just a small stay reaching down to the floor’s axehead (red arrow).

Here, another set of flow conditioning vanes have been sited. Meanwhile, the central bridging panel (blue) has been exchanged for a trio of slats similar to the ones already installed in the lower portion of the array.

It’s also worth noting how some small alterations have been made to the shape of the wing mirrors and their stalks (black arrow), which is indicative of design changes to the bargeboard elements below which must shadow them for legality purposes.

There appear to be other subtle changes to the bargeboards too, but we’ll have to wait for the car to roll out in testing to analyse those in full.

McLaren made subtle changes to the MCL35M's bargeboard area.

McLaren made subtle changes to the MCL35M’s bargeboard area.

Moving to the rear of the car, the new diagonal cut-out is present in the floor as required by the regulations. This is a feature where McLaren were the first to test in the real world when it trialled a solution at the Belgian GP.

However, it’s another feature that’s been on and off the car during the course of 2020 that’s actually of key interest.

The Silverstone spec MCL35M had the raised L-shaped bodywork ahead of the rear tyre that was first tested all the way back at the first race of the season, at the Austrian GP.

The floor's trailing edge was curtailed by F1's 2021 regulations.

The floor’s trailing edge was curtailed by F1’s 2021 regulations.

This style of additional flap ahead of the rear tyre is likely to be a feature that’s used up and down the grid as teams look for ways to recover the performance lost by having the various slots and fully enclosed holes in the floor this year.  

Haas also trialled a similar solution in combination with a floor that had been trimmed back in Abu Dhabi, whereas Ferrari tried several different solutions mainly focused on the edge of the floor throughout the course of the season. 

Haas F1 Team VF-20 floor comparison
Ferrari SF1000 floor comparison, Abu Dhabi GP

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