Interactive: Compare the new McLaren-Mercedes MCL35M with last year’s car

2021 F1 season

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The major change on McLaren’s new car for the 2021 F1 season isn’t the aerodynamic tweaks which they and all their rivals have had to make under this year’s new rules.

McLaren is the only team to have changed engine suppliers during the winter break. While the extent of the changes they could make to their cars was restricted, they were allowed to alter their chassis in order to successfully integrate the Mercedes M12 E Performance power unit into a car originally designed to accept a Renault.

“One of the key elements of the MCL35M design is the integration of the Mercedes-AMG power unit, which has taken a considerable effort from the team in Woking, as well as our colleagues at Mercedes,” said technical director James Key. “Despite our limited scope for installation in a homologated car, the team has done a fantastic job of optimising our design work.”

The top-down images of the car reveal details of the alterations made to accommodate the engine. The sidepods are noticeably slimmer than on its predecessor, while the rear of the car appears to have been extended slightly.

McLaren-Mercedes MCL35M, 2021
The reshaped nose and cape appeared on last year’s car
Viewed from the front, the larger upper air intake characteristic of Mercedes-powered cars is evident when compared to last year’s Renault-powered McLaren.

Other changes on the car will be shared by the other nine machines for the upcoming season. The most noticeable of these is the reduced area of the rear floor, which compared to last year’s design has a long, triangle-shaped cutaway in front of the back wheels. This is intended to reduce how much downforce the car generates, though Key is confident McLaren will be able to get back to 2020 downforce levels later in the year.

The nose of the launch-spec car also differs from the version seen 12 months ago, though McLaren introduced this design to its car mid-way through 2020.

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Use the sliders below to transition between images of the 2021 and 2020 McLaren F1 cars.




Note these images may have been altered for ease of comparison and should not be used as a reference for measurements.

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Video: First look at McLaren’s MCL35M

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “Interactive: Compare the new McLaren-Mercedes MCL35M with last year’s car”

  1. First impressions are that it’s noticeably longer, and the sidepods are much tighter. Also a more Mercedes style nose.

    As a Macca fan, I’m feeling optimistic! xD

    1. @exediron I don’t really notice a difference in length, although I couldn’t get a perfect idea because of not having a ruler, LOL. The sidepods, yes, are noticeable tighter due to the Mercedes PU, but other than this, the only truly noticeable difference is the floor at the back. The nose also looks slightly different and some other smaller more detailed changes.

      1. ‘noticeably’

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    15th February 2021, 22:32

    It’s a very interesting comparison to see a car that hasn’t been redesigned but has adapted around a new engine. The back half of the car is loads smaller! It shows that the Mercedes isn’t only faster than the Renault (the many comparison usually made) but it allows for much tighter packaging which is also worth a considerable amount of time.

    1. Yes narrower, but it looks more bulky height wise to me behind the seat.
      What I did notice is the loss of a couple of sponsors, I’m not sure why.

      1. @john-h Estrella was probably linked to Sainz, so it may have followed him to Ferrari.

      2. Weight reduction.

    2. @petebaldwin

      Agree. It’s not an overhaul of concept, but more of adapting the concept to fit in the Mercedes PU. As you rightly mentioned, rear end packaging seems to be significantly tighter as well as the side pod area. They seemed to have gone with a longer wheel base as well, and the Mercedes nose concept.

    3. Slightly narrower but longer sidepods, less coke-bottle effect.

  3. Also their nose is the mercedes one!

    1. Well they were the first to copy mercedes, it is their 3rd year with a merc nose. This nose you are seeing was seen in FP last year.
      With a far stronger powertrain, a small evolution on their current concept and a top driver I can see McLaren far closer to merc.

      1. Let’s hope so!

        Can’t wait for the season to start…

  4. Be interesting to see how much of that design for display at launch carries over to the car when it hits the track.

  5. Having way too much fun with the comparo sliders 😁

  6. Best car I have seen this year.
    Here’s hoping (and expecting) that DR and LN can push it to the front.

  7. Launch-to-launch makes for a poor comparison of some parts, but the front wing looks less draggy; bargeboards very different, and I think more complex and less outwash focused; downforce shaping on the front suspension, I think; and the rear wing has some differences too.

    They’ve definitely had to spend most of their time and tokens on the engine but clearly there’s a lot of other work they’ve been able to achieve regardless.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      16th February 2021, 2:11

      The photos probably don’t exist but I’d love to see a similar shots compared like this but with the 2020 cars at Abu Dhabi vs this year. Also, the launch shots compared with how they line up for the first race this year to see what’s changed over pre-season.

      Having the cars at similar angles and using the sliders really shows off the subtle improvements they’ve made as opposed to the more obvious ones that are easy to spot.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        16th February 2021, 2:12

        Meant to add – I don’t think McLaren used tokens for some of what appears to be an improvement. The barge boards for example, look like the 2020 Abu Dhabi ones.

  8. @keithcollantine, images say MCL35B and not MCL35M.

  9. Longer wheelbase, and although it’s very hard to tell from these pictures, maybe a slightly lower rake angle? That could just be a function of how it was placed for the pictures.

    In any case, it looks like it’s moving closer to the Mercedes design concepts, no?

    1. Yes, it is; an orange Mercedes!

  10. From the overhead it’s fitting they have Coca Cola as one of the sponsors, wasn’t Ron Dennis after a size 0 coke bottle waist when they chose Honda?

  11. I notice many changes. The tiny side pods,
    The floor boards taper towards the rear of the car where last years had fins or slits. But most noticeability is the lengthen Halo. I wonder if these new cars have larger openings into the drivers area for the infamous Romain escape method. I initially found the car to look exactly like the previous chassis. But with your slider deely bobber I realized how far off I was.
    Now I see a tighter more slippery car. Wonder if this will become the teller of tales for all teams. Tighter smaller aero packages so they will become slippery pigs. Cant wait to get my mind blown. Who’s next?

    1. Almost all changes appear to reflect the new 2021 rules (floor, front wing, halo) and the new engine (smaller pods and tunnel). The cape was already on the 2020 car in the later races.

      1. Yeah great to see what the new 10% reduced floors look like now.

  12. I dont get why they went for changes affecting drag. Should have focussed on front wing to allow close racing. Why reduce drag. I thought we agreed we need more drag and less aero?

  13. So these both (20 and 21) pictures are 3D renders, right? Just look how the tyres have identical textures on them. Identical lighting too.

  14. Will be interesting to see if the car looks like this at launch. Some of the bits changed I believe were run in the late races last year but with a concept that didn’t fully fit them on the old car. It looked at times late last year that McLaren used the races as a test bed to get some development done early for this year. Hoping it all works well together come testing, would be great to see McLaren closer to the front. I think the big winner this year will be those that manage the rear downforce loss best.

  15. Lewisham Milton
    16th February 2021, 13:49

    The black background stands out more than anything on the car. I like the subtle anti-racist message in that (if there is one)…

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