McLaren staff may be enjoying a week off for Christmas, but bosses are planning a rapid return to work in the New Year in order to get a head start on their rivals - not just in terms of preparations for the new season, but getting ready for 2022 as well.
Opportunities to make changes and upgrades to the existing cars are very limited for 2021. Next year's McLaren chassis will be designated as MCL35M reflecting its similarity to this year's MCL35, but with changes nonetheless required for the team's switch from Renault to Mercedes power units.
“The big change heading into next year, which is unique to us, is the new power unit. We can’t just carry over the chassis from 2020,” McLaren technical director James Key told MotorsportWeek.com
“We’ve had to do a lot of redesigning, especially when it comes to various systems on the car, such as cooling and electronics," he said. "Not only will the chassis be different, the gearbox will be too, and of course the engine, so the MCL35M is akin to a new car for us.”
In other areas the COVID-19 pandemic forced the sport to push back major planned changes to sporting and technical rules and regulations by a year as a cost-saving measure.
The FIA also imposed a development freeze on work on certain aspects of the 2022 cars, but that ban will be lifted at the start of January, meaning it will be full speed ahead again for all the teams once the holidays are over.
"Everyone had got to a pretty advanced stage before the aero development freeze kicked in this year," Key said. "We’ve got plenty of developments to look at and lots of new concepts floating around.
"[The development freeze] hasn’t stopped mechanical design or simulation work taking place though. Our gearbox design, for example, is very mature now," he continued. "We’ve got plenty of developments to look at and lots of new concepts floating around.
“We’ll be back in the wind tunnel immediately at the start of next year to continue work on the ’22 car," he revealed. “There’s a real blank sheet of paper approach to the ’22 car.
"The chassis regulations are fundamentally different, and the wheels and tyres are changing too. We’ve been working on it for some time now.
“It’s always a great challenge having significantly different technical regulations to work to," he said.
"They represent a fresh start and provide new opportunities for design and development, which as engineers is incredibly motivating.
“The development freeze bought everyone a bit of thinking time," he added. "It allowed us to take a step back and really analyse the data and what we’ve done.
“It’s still early days though. There’s plenty more to learn about what the true potential of a ‘22 F1 car is, and this learning process will continue for a while.
“2021 will be a busy year with a full season to complete, the MCL35M to develop and race, and new discoveries to make with our ‘22 contender as it evolves. We can’t wait for it to start!”