The 10 things that set McLaren's new car apart from the old

While McLaren’s new MCL35M is very different under the skin thanks to new Mercedes power, many were left struggling to spot big changes compared to its 2020 Formula 1 challenger.
But a closer examination of the details of the team’s new car has highlighted some fascinating design tweaks that McLaren hopes will allow it to close the gap on Red Bull and Mercedes ahead.
Here, Giorgio Piola and Matt Somerfield take a look at the ten design features that set the new car apart from its MCL35 predecessor.
  1. McLaren introduced a new nose at Mugello last season, moving to a concept more akin to the one used by Mercedes and subsequently adopted by other teams. The MCL35M continues to carry the new design, but the cape and turning vanes have been altered to better feed airflow down the car.
  2. During 2020, McLaren made several changes to the bargeboard cluster and sidepod deflectors, many of which feature in this year's design. This overhead comparison shot of last year’s car doesn’t do this area justice but it’s fair to say, as McLaren brings changes for the first race, that further tweaks will be on the horizon before the car even turns a wheel in anger.
  3. The yellow line marked on the image shows how much narrower the MCL35M’s sidepods are when compared with last year’s car. McLaren has made every effort to slim this area of the car down to improve the airflow’s transit around the car’s midriff.
  4. The Mercedes-AMG M12 power unit has different cooling demands when compared with the Renault E-Tech 20. As a consequence, along with some repackaging of the radiators and associated ancillaries, the cooling layout has been altered. The louvred panel beside the cockpit is larger than before, but it’s also more contoured to suit the shape of the sidepod which now falls away more abruptly. Meanwhile, the roll hoop and airbox have been reconfigured, with the lower inlet, which was required to be bigger to meet the demands of the Renault powerunit, being made smaller. This has allowed McLaren to appropriate the Mercedes style large oval airbox shaping, with a triangular spar arrangement.
  5. The overall shape of the sidepods, including the bulge midway along its surface, have been recontoured to take advantage of the different powerunit architecture. Something as simple as a different positioning for the exhausts can make a significant difference to how tight the bodywork can cling to it.
  6. The floor’s design is significantly different for 2021 with the diagonal cutout a requirement of the new regulations which intend to reduce downforce by approximately 10 percent.
  7. The fully enclosed holes in the outer 100mm of the floor that had become a feature of all of the cars since 2017 have been outlawed for 2021. This includes holes made in the floor in the forward section that had been used to help set up flow structures that ‘sealed’ the edge of the floor.
  8. The diagonal cutout will have a dramatic effect on how the aerodynamicists deal with the wake turbulence created by the rear tyre and its impact on the diffuser. Teams will make changes on the edge of the floor just ahead of the tyre to try and influence this, as seen here as McLaren has rolled up the edge.
  9. The previous generation of floor and the regulations surrounding it gave the designers headroom to use a combination of slots, fully enclosed holes and fins to influence the flow around the rear tyre. These have now gone.
  10. In order to accommodate the Mercedes power unit, the wheelbase of the car has also been lengthened slightly. This will have an impact on numerous aspects of the car's behaviour, including suspension kinematics and aerodynamics. As we know, a longer wheelbase has been profitable for Mercedes in recent years, so there’s no reason to suggest the same won’t be the case for McLaren, if it continues to run with a little more rake.

McLaren MCL35M front detail

McLaren MCL35M front detail

Photo by: McLaren


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