McLaren car launch: Everything you need to know about their 2021 F1 car

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A familiar look but a new driver line-up, coupled with two F1 stars rapping in a music studio, no really, helped launch McLaren’s 2021 challenger for the upcoming season.

The MCL35M – the first McLaren with Mercedes power since 2014 – was unveiled on Monday night on Sky Sports F1 and the Woking-based outfit’s social channels, with us getting to hear from one of the sport’s most exciting-looking driver pairings for the new campaign as well.

Lando Norris is joined by Daniel Ricciardo for 2021 and, as the former embarks on his third season with the team, he revealed he feels the onus is on him to take further leadership with the experience he has.

“I think there’s a little bit more leadership role I have to take. I have to take on a bit more responsibility in the team and that comes with experience,” Norris explained to Sky’s Natalie Pinkham at the McLaren Technology Centre, before commenting on his new Aussie team-mate.

“It’s an opportunity for us to work together, to learn from someone different that has more wins and podiums.”

Certainly, many are expecting positive results from the pair for a team that finished third in the Constructors’ championship last season with McLaren racing CEO Zak Brown making the bold claim later on in the launch that the team possesses 'the best driver line-up in Formula 1.'

Ricciardo, of course, joins McLaren in his seemingly perennial quest to find a team that will yield him a genuine title challenge after a spell at Renault that saw progress but ultimately not enough.
Agreeing to join in May 2020, the 31-year-old laid out just how excited he was to be sitting in the bright colours of the team.

“I just thought papaya would look good on me!” Ricciardo joked.

“To be here wearing the colours it feels real and I was very impressed with what the team have done in the last couple of years and I wanted to be part of it, fortunately the feeling was mutual.”

Certainly, perhaps typically before a wheel has been turned in anger, the vibe was positive at the MTC on Monday night and it’s clear the two drivers do have a good relationship with one another – summed up by their work in a music studio on a song they’re aiming to have launched by the first race in Sakhir in late March

A clever marketing ploy to get people talking on social media? Possibly, but it at least reflected McLaren’s bid to become a ‘fun team.’

The racing, though, will be as serious as ever and that’s why they’ve turned to Mercedes power in a bid to close the gap to the all-conquering Silver Arrows.

So, what of the new Mercedes-powered car?

The look livery wise is very similar to 2020 but the technical aspects of the MCL35M are different in key areas:

Though teams aren’t allowed to make many changes for 2021 from the previous season, McLaren have naturally had to make some with their power unit changing from Renault to Merc.

McLaren's technical director, James Key, had already explained a couple of months ago what needed work:

"We can't just carry over the chassis from 2020. We've had to do a lot of redesigning, especially when it comes to various systems on the car, such as cooling and electronics. 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.

"Having to spend 2021 development tokens on the Mercedes engine installation changed our approach when it came to developments this season. But the upshot of it is that we probably added a bit of performance in 2020 that we normally wouldn't have and there's scope to develop these areas further based on all the information we've gathered."

Indeed, the McLaren is notably tighter packed around the rear of the car where the new engine and gearbox are obviously encased, combined with new regulations for rear brake ducts in 2021:

"Our goal is to close the gap to the front," said Brown, whilst team principal Andreas Seidl added, "We want to get closer again to Mercedes and Red Bull.” The hope will be these changes allow them to do that.

First out the blocks for their car launch, time will tell if that can translate into on-track position.

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