The McLaren Formula 1 Car Is Making Improvements to Take on Mercedes

by Gabrielle DeSantis

The 2020 F1 season was a blur, with Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team sweeping the race track. However, times are changing. Winds are picking up! The sun is shining again! And teams other than Mercedes are making headlines. The McLaren Formula 1 team is one of those teams taking the 2021 Formula 1 season by storm.

McLaren Formula 1 team is moving up in the ranks

Lando Norris drives the McLaren Formula 1 car at the Austrian Grand Prix | Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

The McLaren Formula 1 car, the MCL35M, has been going through some changes lately. That is evident in the performance of McLaren in the past few Formula 1 Grand Prix races. According to Motorsport, McLaren has been taking stock of what the other teams are doing. The strengths of certain designs and the weaknesses of others are all influencing how the team moves forward through the season.

McLaren was a late adopter to the new Z-shaped floor design that eight other teams were already using. At the Spanish Grand Prix, McLaren introduced a more tapered design to the floor. It also added a cluster of fins along the wide section to help redirect the airflow. This would also help reinforce the flow that the design was already creating.

Is McLaren still in Formula 1?

McLaren Formula 1 car floor comparison | Motorsport

One of the best parts of Formula 1 as a sport is that each team has its own designs, which are visible above. Red Bull Racing has five fins bunched together toward the back of the floor. Aston Martin has three fins in a row, while McLaren has a steep angle on the first fin. A second set of fins have been added just behind the first ones as well. The design might look different, but it serves the same purpose while being more efficient.

The Red Bull Ring happened to be an excellent testing ground for these changes due to the altitude. “The altitude emphasizes the trade-off between the need to keep the power unit within the operating window and a loss of aerodynamic efficiency from opening up the bodywork.” This change debuted at the French Grand Prix.

At the same race, McLaren also debuted a new rear wing endplate design. This design uses horizontal louvers on the lower half of the endplate to allow airflow in the correct direction. The usual design favors vertical strakes as opposed to the horizontal design.

McLaren in the 2021 Constructor Standings

As it stands right now, the McLaren Formula 1 team’s changes seem to be paying off. The top five drivers are Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Pérez, Lando Norris, and Valtteri Bottas. The second McLaren driver is Daniel Ricciardo, and he’s in eighth place. For the 2021 Constructor Standings, the top five teams are Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, and AlphaTauri.

Lando Norris currently has 101 points, just behind Pérez with 104. Though Red Bull is in the lead, McLaren is certainly still at the top of the midfield…or the back of the front row. Whatever the McLaren Formula 1 team is doing behind the scenes, it seems to be working.

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