McLaren believes it is the only team building a new car for the 2021 Formula 1 season as a result of its switch to Mercedes power units.
The FIA opted to delay the introduction of new regulations until 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, freezing many components to ensure costs were kept to a minimum. However, as McLaren is the only team changing power unit supplier from last season to this, the team has had to make more changes than many others within a token system, limiting where it can make other developments.
“Whereas every other team will carry over most of its car from last year (pictured above at launch) into this year, our switch to the Mercedes power unit means that’s not the case for us,” McLaren’s F1 production director Piers Thynne said. “It’s driven a huge amount of change and, essentially, we’ve been building a new car. The number of new parts on the MCL35M is about the same as when we built the MCL35.
“The back of the chassis and gearbox bell housing around the engine have changed significantly to adapt to the new power unit. Changing power unit greatly alters the architecture of the car and the way everything is packaged, so the entire cooling layout and all the pipework — be that for fluid or air — has changed, along with all electrical harnessing and control boxes.”
Thynne also confirmed that McLaren is the only team having to homologate a new chassis, with the remaining nine teams all using the same chassis as last season.
“The homologation of the chassis is always a huge, huge milestone. It’s an uneasy and anxious time for lots of people in the team. It reminds me of when my wife gave birth to twins – the only difference is that we have to go through homologation every year! Although, we’re the only team that had to do it for this year’s car because every other team has carried its 2020 chassis over to 2021. We didn’t have this luxury due to the changes made to the chassis to accommodate the switch to the Mercedes power unit.
“There were some challenges, as is the case every year, but good teamwork between manufacturing and design meant the chassis was homologated on time in December. The process didn’t really differ but, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the FIA couldn’t physically be there to witness the crash test. Instead, we had to set up cameras and live links, so they could see all the instrumentation and closely follow every step of the process.”
However, with financial regulations coming into effect for the first time this season, Thynne admits McLaren has had to maximize the areas components are carried over to allow the team to make the required changes it needs to within the rules.
“There are some significant elements of carryover as we enter the cost cap. The FIA created a list of Transitional Carry Over (TCO) components that are outside of this year’s cost cap. These are parts that can be used in 2021 if they were run on last year’s car. We’ve pushed these TCO regulations to the absolute maximum to allow us to carry over as much as possible, such as gearbox internals and some suspension components, and therefore not have to use a portion of our 2021 budget on their design and production.”