McLaren turns towards the wind to solve MCL35 weakness

McLaren technical director James Key has been working hard over the winter to try and iron out the weaknesses of the papaya squad’s MCL35, with a particular focus on the car’s sensitivity to specific wind conditions.

McLaren is confident of taking a step forward this year in the wake of its switch from Renault to Mercedes power.

But a few weaknesses nevertheless remained imbedded in the papaya squad’s 2020 car at the end of last season and have been the focus of Key’s team of engineers over the winter.

While low-speed performance was a bit of a chink in McLaren’s armor last year, the MCL35’s proneness to the wind was also a soft spot that required Key’s attention in the past months.


“I think in terms of weaknesses, we still need to improve ourselves a bit in low speed,” Key explained, quoted by

“It’s not quite as weak as it was [in 2019], and that was one of the big pushes to try and improve that low speed, balance and consistency that we had in certain types of low speed corners.

“Then, in some conditions, the car doesn’t perform quite as well as we’d like it to – and that’s in some weather conditions or some grip conditions, which we can kind of see in the data.

“We need to understand that actually, but it’s not one of those overnight fixes. So that’s what we’re really targeting.

“I think if we can iron some of that out, we’ll have a more consistent car from one race to the next.”

    Read also: McLaren’s Key hails ‘fantastic’ interaction with Mercedes

Getting a grasp on the complex and variable impacts on a car of the wind is a long process, and one that cannot be easily analysed with the help of simulation.

But Key believes his tech department now has a good fundamental understanding of how to tackle the issue for its modified MCL35M the car that it will field this season.

“It has been a bit of an issue for us,” added the McLaren engineer. “We think we’ve pinned it down to one thing, which is just a characteristic of the car that we need to iron out.

“But with all these things, there’s no silver bullet – you just have to work on it. But there is an element of probably being a bit more affected by it than others, positively as well as negatively, depending on the direction of the wind.

“Every car, of course, suffers from this. Our drivers have said they’ve seen cars ahead locking up and having troubles as well [when it is windy], so I think it affects everyone.

“But possibly on occasion, when it’s been in the wrong direction or affected a certain corner a certain way, it has had a worst effect on us.”

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