McLaren can address MCL35 weaknesses despite development cap – Key

McLaren technical director James Key is confident the Woking-based outfit can address the weaknesses of its 2020 car despite next year’s limited scope for development.

In a bid to limit costs, the sport’s regulations will force teams to carry over into next year this season’s chassis, while a token system will govern – and restrict – development in 2021.

Each team will rely on two tokens to manage its evolutions, but McLaren will spend its allowance at the outset on the adaption of its new Mercedes engine to its MCL35M chassis.

The end result will be an almost entirely new car fielded by the papaya squad in 2021.

“The big change heading into next year, which is unique to us, is the new power unit,” said Key. “We can’t just carry over the chassis from 2020.

“We’ve had to do a lot of redesigning, especially when it comes to various systems on the car, such as cooling and electronics.

“Not only will the chassis be different, the gearbox will be too and, of course, the engine, so the MCL35M is akin to a new car for us.”

The prospect of its switch from Renault to Mercedes power coupled with next year’s development restrictions incited McLaren to bring forward the introduction of new parts in 2020, a decision that helped the team’s performance this year according to Key.

“Having to spend 2021 development tokens on the Mercedes engine installation changed our approach when it came to developments this season,” explained the McLaren tech boss.

“But the upshot of it is that we probably added a bit of performance in 2020 that we normally wouldn’t have and there’s scope to develop these areas further based on all the information we’ve gathered.”

    Read also: McLaren moving forward, but ‘deficits’ remain – Seidl

McLaren’s engineering department will operate next season under the strict constraints of the regulations. But Key still believes he can make some headway in terms of ironing out the MCL35’s weaknesses.

“The midfield battle has been incredibly close this year,” he said.

“It’s ebbed and flowed depending on the circuit, tyres, weather conditions and, of course, car development. We’re talking about a tenth, or even half a tenth, of a second making the difference.

“We’ve been able to identify the areas where our competitors are stronger than us and established the weaknesses of our car.

“Certain tracks and conditions, particularly in the latter part of the season, have not played to our strengths. I think there’s enough scope within the regulations to address these weaknesses for 2021.

“Obviously, if you had a completely blank sheet of paper you could do even more, but the areas we need to improve aren’t related to the fundamental architecture of the car.”

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