McLaren have become the first team to launch their 2021 F1 World Championship challenger, the MCL35M complete with a new Mercedes engine.
The launch took place at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, with the car to be driven by Lando Norris and his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the forthcoming season that starts in Bahrain on the last weekend in March.
Although McLaren had the most work to do of any F1 team over the winter as they had to accommodate the Mercedes engine, to which they have switched from Renault, they were first out of the blocks in the unveiling stakes.
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The launch, hosted by Sky Sports presenter Natalie Pinkham, took the form of a show but behind closed doors, with the only audience present being a virtual wall of fans.
Norris and Ricciardo drove separate cars onto the McLaren Boulevard and after short interviews, were asked questions by members of the virtual audience, including a couple of familiar faces who appeared as surprise guests – an ex-mechanic of the Briton’s from his karting days, Martin Stone, and a DJ friend of the Australian, Martin Garrix.
There was also coverage of the two drivers taking part in the recording of a new track at a London studio, showing off their somewhat limited – by personal admission – musical skills.
It took 34 minutes for the first sight of the car and when it came, there was a distinctly familiar look – the papaya orange and blue livery of the previous two years remains. While some cars will be visually different on the grid this year, that will be less the case with the McLaren despite the different engine.
McLaren will hope the new power unit can help them finish on the podium more regularly than in recent seasons, even though they have made significant gains in the constructors’ World Championship culminating in last year’s third position.
Norris claimed his only F1 podium so far when finishing third in the 2020 season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, while his former team-mate Carlos Sainz added a second place at the Italian Grand Prix to his P3 in Brazil towards the end of 2019.
Sainz has now moved on to Ferrari, with Norris having been joined by Ricciardo – for whom McLaren will be the fifth F1 team for which he has raced following HRT, Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Renault.
The drivers will get to try out the MCL35M on track for the first time in a Silverstone shakedown on Tuesday before heading to pre-season testing from March 12-14, which also takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit two weeks before the curtain-raising grand prix.
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