The wait is over. Yesterday, Monday, February 15, the curtain was finally raised on the new Formula One season, with the unveiling of the first car of the 2021 grid.
It was McLaren that did the honours with the reveal of its MCL35M, a model featuring a Mercedes engine for the first time since 2014 and with which the British team is set to start a new era.
Flanking the orange missile, McLaren’s official pilots, the Briton Lando Norris and his new partner, the Australian Daniel Ricciardo, were also at the team’s headquarters in Woking to take part in the event.
After both said a few words to the press, it was the turn for the team’s technical chief, Andreas Seidl, and for CEO, Zak Brawn, to join in the speeches.
It is hard to draw any conclusions on the MCL35M at first glance. Among other issues, teams usually present their first cars using pieces from previous years, so that rivals cannot copy their new designs. In any case, the MCL35M seems to be a clear continuation of last year’s model, perhaps in waiting for the greats changes that are to come in 2022.
As for its livery, the iconic papaya orange covers most of the body combined with the characteristic electric blue of previous campaigns. Those two principal colours are now complemented by some luxurious touches of black.
Chromatic issues aside, the MCL35M’s real difference is hidden under its bonnet. There lies a new Mercedes engine, the first one to do so in seven years.
Undoubtedly, McLaren dreams of reliving those glory days of a couple of decades ago, when they conquered the championship crown. Much of the work remodelling the vehicle’s architecture has actually revolved around integration the new German engine which is replacing the old Renault one.
Ricciardo & Norris, a strong duo
“It’s great to have finally joined the team after what feels like an age since we confirmed it last May. I’m thrilled to be a McLaren driver and super-keen to get started. McLaren has been on an awesome journey over the last few years, and I’m looking forward to helping the team maintain this positive momentum”.
“I’ve been spending the last few weeks here in the UK getting fully integrated into the team so that we’re as prepared as possible for the start of the season. I’ve had such a warm welcome from everyone I’ve met and there’s a real sense of unity and focus around the factory, and a lot of excitement!”
“Going into this new season in Formula 1, I’m feeling excited and motivated to give it my absolute all. I think my determination to perform has only grown as I’ve gained more experience and I’m looking forward to getting this next chapter in my career started.”
Isn’t it beautiful?
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) February 15, 2021
The Briton, for his part, will embark on his third year in Formula One with the ambition of continuing to grow on the track and establish himself as one of the main names on the grid. And he’s on his way to do so.
Their joint effort should serve to keep up the progression experienced by McLaren over the last couple of seasons after its disastrous years in partnership with Honda as an engine supplier.
The objective of one of the most successful teams in Formula 1 history will ultimately be to continue on its journey back to the elite, from which it should have never have departed.
“I’m really excited to be back working with the team ahead of my third season in Formula 1. Every time I get into the car I feel like I’m growing in confidence and experience, which helps me build my performance year-on-year”.
“I’ve been working hard personally throughout the off-season to be as sharp as I can when we get to pre-season testing, and I can’t wait to get back in the car soon”.
“I’m looking forward to going back to some of the countries we couldn’t race at last year, hopefully with fans as well at some point, who create such an incredible atmosphere in every country we race in”.
“We’ve really missed having our fans trackside and until we can meet again in person, I’ll be working as hard as I can to give them a good show. 2021 is going to be another challenging year on-track with close competition, but I’m just focused on getting back to racing and giving it my all.”
Images: McLaren Racing.