McLaren technical director James Key says the much-anticipated concept changes on the newly-launched MCL35 Formula 1 design for 2020 are mainly towards the rear of the car.
Key said last year that McLaren was evaluating changes in concept in specific areas to unlock greater performance potential in the car, with the 2020 machine featuring tighter sidepod and rear-end packaging – in addition to some geometry changes towards the front.
“New concepts were being looked at alongside what we learned with the 34 as the year was going by last year, so we have changed a few areas,” said Key when asked by The Race about the concept changes.
“The bodywork is following a trend we’re seeing increasingly with a very narrow sidepod, which is quite an exercise in packaging and we planned quite early for that because it involves a lot of the engine installation and so on.
“We’ve done similar exercise with the gearbox to sort of match that philosophy.
“On the rear part of that there’s been a lot of work on the rear suspension too, so that the whole cockpit backwards is a very different approach from what we had before, that’s really what the conceptual side of things was.
“Equally there’s a lot of technologies, let’s say around the front, which were only possible to do with the new car and we’ve introduced that too.
“It’s not entirely based around what we had last year, but the 34 is very much the father of the concept of this car so we’ve tried to carry what we learned last year.
“It’s been designed as we were developing it [last year’s car], the car’s a bit of a process and we felt were opportunities we couldn’t unlock on 34 with the geometry we had.”
While McLaren enjoyed a remarkable turnaround last season, comfortably winning the midfield battle and finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship, there remains a significant gap to the top three.
The long-term aim is to get back to the front but Key accepts this size of step will take time, although some of the changes with this year’s car are aimed at tapping into areas where the top teams derive their advantage from.
“You have to have a target to work to because you have to figure out where you think you need to be,” said Key.
“One of those is to get to the front, of course, but that’s a huge step. Compared to where we are now, to do that in a year would be a very welcome but a massive step.
“Ultimately, there were certain targets based around what we learned from last year and where we found our weaknesses were that we really wanted to address.
“We could see that some of those weaknesses were quite similar across the teams we were competing with when you look [in comparison to] the bigger three teams so we’ve been looking closely at those kinds of areas and we have made some progress there.
“The medium term target is to maintain our position and hopefully close the gap a bit and then build on that.
“If we can be in that place I think we can achieve that realistic target that we have.”