McLaren technical director James Key says the regulation changes coming in 2022 are bigger than any he has experienced in his career.
Such changes were originally meant to come into play for the 2021 season but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, 2022 will be the first season with them and looking ahead, Key says adapting to them will be harder than it was to do so with drastic changes in the past.
“I’ve seen [such a big change] three times in my time. In 2009 and 2017 and to a certain extent still in 2014,” he told AMuS.
“As an engineer, you would like to dedicate all of your time to the new car. In reality, that doesn’t work. You have to deliver results in the current season.
“The difference this time around is that there isn’t much you can do with your knowledge of the past. 2009, 2014 and 2017 were big steps, but you could build on old laws.
“2022 is a completely new beginning. These are ground-effect cars. There is knowledge about it, but no references to the past.”
With the changes delayed, next season will see teams effectively using their 2020 challengers. Development work will be allowed but only to a limited extent, with a token system being implemented.
While this has led to many, including midfield rivals Racing Point and Renault, halting development on this year’s cars, McLaren has continued to work on the MCL35.
This is because the British team will have to use all their allocated 2021 tokens on switching to Mercedes engines, according to Key, and thus have to do as much work as possible now.
“We don’t have tokens for 2021 because of the engine change. Anything we wanted to change had to happen this season,” he added.
“That has set us some deadlines. One example is the nose. It had to be ready by the end of September. Renault and Racing Point didn’t have this problem.
“The car would look different if we had all the freedom. I would invest the tokens there. But we don’t complain. The FIA had to make quick decisions in a completely unsafe and unpredictable situation.
“The focus was on saving the teams money. You couldn’t take the special situation of a team into account.”