McLaren has announced the earliest launch date for the 2021 Formula 1 season so far, as it will reveal its new car on 15 February.
Pre-season testing gets underway on March 12 in Bahrain after the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix to November, but that delay has not impacted the timelines for some teams to unveil their new cars. McLaren will take the covers off its 2021 design – known as the MCL35M – in just under two weeks’ with a broadcast from its headquarters in Woking in the UK.
The MCL35 was the 2020 car, and the name for the new chassis is a sign of the evolution between last year and this – many components have been frozen as cost-saving measures – as well as the switch to the Mercedes power unit. That’s despite McLaren claiming to be the only team building an essentially new car this season due to the changes required to incorporate the Mercedes.
Daniel Ricciardo will make his public debut as a McLaren driver as part of the event, alongside his new teammate Lando Norris. McLaren is looking to build on an impressive 2020 season in which the team finished third in the constructors’ championship behind only Mercedes and Red Bull, picking up two podiums in the process.
The launch date is at a similar time to most McLaren pre-season unveilings but comes some four weeks before testing gets underway, and the team’s F1 production director Piers Thynne admits there are some problematic areas that are currently being addressed with the new car.
“If you work in the production team, you work hard every single month of the year but when you really earn your money is in January and February: it’s the toughest time of the year,” Thynne said. “We are on plan with a lot of things. There are some challenges in certain areas at the moment, but that’s F1. If you’re not encountering any problems, then you’re probably not being aggressive enough. If everything is easy and straightforward it tends to mean you’re giving performance away because you’re not pushing the boundaries.
“The real challenge isn’t necessarily producing the launch car, it’s how you evolve from it by upgrading it as quickly as possible. The key is to not spend time and resource on anything that isn’t needed. If you make too many launch-spec parts, you’ve wasted capacity that could have been used to produce an upgrade to the latest specification.