McLaren fire up the MCL35M for the first time

Jamie Woodhouse

McLaren fire up Mercedes-powered MCLM35 for the first time.

McLaren’s return to Mercedes power just became a whole lot more real after their 2021 challenger roared into life.

It is safe to say that McLaren have followed a bumpy path full of highs and lows since they first moved on from Mercedes following the 2014 campaign.

Fearing they couldn’t compete at the top of Formula 1 as a customer team, McLaren tried to rekindle their past glory with Honda, but that experiment failed and the relationship came to an end after just three seasons.

Following the switch to Renault the situation then slowly began to improve, and by 2019 McLaren had recovered to P4 in the Constructors’ Championship, going a step better with P3 in 2020.

And with McLaren very much back on the right path in Formula 1, returning to Mercedes, who possesses the strongest power unit on the grid, seems like the next major step on their road back to the pinnacle of Formula 1.

And McLaren have now fired up their 2021 challenger, the MCL35M for the first time, signalling that the McLaren-Mercedes partnership is well and truly back.

McLaren F1 Production Director Piers Thynne revealed that the team are on schedule with the MCL35M, although some “challenges” remain, while crash tests were passed in December.

“If you work in the production team, you work hard every single month of the year but when you really earn your money is in January and February: it’s the toughest time of the year,” he told the McLaren website.

“We are on plan with a lot of things. There are some challenges in certain areas at the moment – but that’s F1. If you’re not encountering any problems, then you’re probably not being aggressive enough. If everything is easy and straightforward it tends to mean you’re giving performance away because you’re not pushing the boundaries.

“The real challenge isn’t necessarily producing the launch car, it’s how you evolve from it by upgrading it as quickly as possible. The key is to not spend time and resource on anything that isn’t needed. If you make too many launch-spec parts, you’ve wasted capacity that could have been used to produce an upgrade to the latest specification.

“The homologation of the chassis is always a huge, huge milestone. It’s an uneasy and anxious time for lots of people in the team. It reminds me of when my wife gave birth to twins – the only difference is that we have to go through homologation every year!

“Although, we’re the only team that had to do it for this year’s car because every other team has carried its 2020 chassis over to 2021. We didn’t have this luxury due to the changes made to the chassis to accommodate the switch to the Mercedes power unit.

“There were some challenges, as is the case every year, but good teamwork between manufacturing and design meant the chassis was homologated on time in December.

“The process didn’t really differ but, because of covid-19 restrictions, the FIA couldn’t physically be there to witness the crash test. Instead, we had to set up cameras and live links, so they could see all the instrumentation and closely follow every step of the process.”

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