First look: How the 2021 McLaren-Mercedes compares with MCL35

Matt Somerfield
·2-min read

While the car, which is designed around a Mercedes engine rather than the Renault used last year, looks fairly similar to last year's model, there are some intriguing differences that can be seen close up.

It arrives on the back of a relatively successful season for McLaren, finishing in third place in the constructors’ standings.

The car has had to undergo a raft of changes as the team made the switch to the Mercedes-AMG M12 Performance power unit, all while having to stay within the homologation and token system imposed by the FIA that limits changes from last year’s design.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M<span class="copyright">McLaren</span>
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35MMcLaren


McLaren MCL35M side pods and air box detail

McLaren MCL35M side pods and air box detail<span class="copyright">McLaren</span>
McLaren MCL35M side pods and air box detailMcLaren


Conceptually the sidepods are similar to its predecessor but the MCL35M’s bodywork is tucked in much tighter, with significant contouring to the upper forward portion of the sidepod, which leads to a more pronounced curvature as the bodywork falls over the radiators housed within.

This is made even more apparent by the inclusion of a large louvred panel alongside the halo, which has also had its fairing modified to inflict a different aerodynamic effect.

The transit of airflow around the car’s midriff will also be modified owing to the tighter sculpting that’s most noticeable at the point where the suspension pullrod meets the bodywork (bottom left inset in the image above), as McLaren has applied a blister at this point to accommodate where the floor and sidepods meet.

Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M<span class="copyright">McLaren</span>
Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35MMcLaren


For a diminutive fella, Norris has done a fine job of being strategically placed in order to obfuscate the key area around the sidepods! It’s clear that although the studio images have a deflector array akin to the one used in the early part of 2020, the MCL35M features the venetian blind-style horizontal slats that were used toward the end of last year's campaign.

There are further changes to the bargeboard cluster too, but all of this aerodynamic furniture is likely to change before the season even gets underway.

McLaren MCL35M rear wing detail

McLaren MCL35M rear wing detail<span class="copyright">McLaren</span>
McLaren MCL35M rear wing detailMcLaren


Another area of interest is the rear wing endplates. McLaren has taken cues from its competitors, assimilating both the louvred hanging-strake design first seen on the Haas and altering the upper leading edge of the endplate, which Alpha Tauri first introduced.

Both of these help the aerodynamicists to challenge the regulatory changes made in 2019 that removed the louvres from the upper front quarter of the endplate and help to mitigate the drag that the wing generates.

McLaren MCL35
McLaren MCL35
McLaren MCL35M
McLaren MCL35M