McLaren says it is surprised to be the only team running an innovative packaging solution that appears to give it a way of minimizing the impact of restrictions relating to its diffuser.
Tweaks to the technical regulations focused largely on the rear of the cars in 2021 with the aim of reducing downforce levels. The changes include a tapered floor in front of the rear wheels, but also a reduction in the length of diffuser fences outside of a central area. McLaren has simplified but retained longer fences within the central area, the idea being that the lower to the ground these parts are, the higher the downforce – and although it caught the eye of rivals, technical director James Key expected others to have taken the same approach.
“I think it’s always nice for a team to come up with an idea which is unique, and the credit fully goes to our aero department and the guys in the rear aero group for realizing that there was an opportunity there to use the new regulations in such a way,” Key said. “So full credit to them in that respect. Of course, it’s nice to find something which is maybe a little bit unique to us.
“As far as a talking point is concerned, I suppose it’s one of those visible things which gets talked about a lot, but ultimately it’s just a bit of a much wider picture of a complex bit at the back of the car. So I’m sure it will be forgotten by the time we get back here in a couple of weeks’ time.
“It’s a normal design idea. Actually, I think we are a bit surprised that maybe we are the only team right now with that. As I say, it’s just one feature of many on an area which changed for this year.”
Key believes other teams will quickly be working out whether they can apply the diffuser solution themselves, estimating rivals will have a first look at the concept within the next few days and could have copied it by the second round of the season.
“The first port of call with any idea you see elsewhere is CFD, so you can jump on an idea you spot on another team within a week nowadays,” he said. “So if there’s still interest after a week – whether it’s our diffuser or Mercedes’ edge of floor detail or whatever it is – I think you can get a feel for things quite quick.
“Then it’s really understanding how it works with your car. That’s the key to this. So you’re going to end up with a unique geometry of your own, because you might understand the principle, but then you have to adapt it accordingly so that it works with your car. And in a diffuser situation, for example, is also very kind of stable in that environment as well.
“So you’d probably therefore wind tunnel test it, so that might be a week or two down the line, and then you’ve got to manufacturer it, and these particular surfaces are fairly straightforward. So you could, say, (have) between three and five weeks between taking the picture and putting it on your car, if you really wanted to push it through.”