Even though the virtual event did not allow any photographer to get as close as possible to the car, McLaren still took no risk to hide the parts he didn’t want people to see. Cover-up is a long-standing tradition when F1 teams unveil their latest racing cars, with parts that are hidden, missing, or that bear little resemblance to those that will actually be intended for racing.
The presentation of the MCL35M was no different, as the diffuser area was seen to have been carefully concealed in official images from the launch. Luckily for us, the crew used one of their promotional filming days at Silverstone on Tuesday; we therefore had the opportunity to see certain aspects of the car that were not visible the day before.
Here’s what we found …
Hopes of unlocking these design secrets were first dashed when images from Silverstone continued to deliberately obscure significant parts of the car. The shooting angles of the videos and photos were either strictly front or side, or the angle of the video deliberately prevented close-ups on specific areas of the car as it exited the pitlane.
But the odds ended up turning in our favor, as footage released by the team later allowed us to see the main areas of interest – especially those relating to the new aero rules for 2021.
These changes aim to reduce downforce by around 10% and include a diagonal cutout of the flat bottom in front of the rear tires, with a ban on drilling fully closed holes in a 100mm area on the outside of the flat bottom. In addition, 40mm has been removed from the lower half of the fins of the rear brake scoops and 50mm has been cut from the bottom of the diffuser blades.
The MCL35M on track at Silverstone
Inspecting the MCL35M that took to the track at Silverstone (above), we can see that it has a set of different bargeboards and pontoon deflectors as well as a new flat bottom.
The deflectors are more like those used by the team at the end of 2020 (below) but the most advanced element now only has a small shroud which goes down to the “ax head” flat bottom (red arrow).
Here, another set of airflow conditioning vanes has been housed. At the same time, the central connecting panel (blue arrow) has been replaced by a trio of slats similar to those already installed in the lower portion of the device.
It should also be noted the number of small modifications made to the shape of the wing mirrors and their uprights (black arrow), which also indicates design changes on the bargeboards located directly below since according to the regulations the former must be reflected vertically on the second if we look at them from above.
There appear to be other subtle changes to the bargeboards as well, but you’ll have to wait for the car to hit the track in practice to fully analyze them.
Bargeboards area on the McLaren MCL35 at the end of the 2020 season
Regarding the rear of the car, the new diagonal cutout of the flat bottom is present as required by regulations. This is something McLaren was among the first to test in real conditions at the Belgian GP last year.
However, it’s one thing that has been both used and unused during the 2020 season that is actually the focal point of interest. The Silverstone specification MCL35M has elevated an L-shaped element just in front of the rear tire. It had been tested for the first time in the first race of the past campaign, at the Austrian GP.
An L-shaped element on a flat background version 2020
This kind of addition in front of the rear tire will likely be used by all teams, as they look for ways to regain the performance lost following the removal of the many slots and holes that were plentiful until then.
Haas also tried a similar solution, in combination with a flat bottom that had been rolled up, in Abu Dhabi, as Ferrari tested several different solutions over the year, mostly focused on the edge of the flat bottom. .