An evolution of the MCL35, a car that helped the team to third in the Constructors’ Championship in 2020 – its best performance in eight years, the McLaren MCL35M was McLaren Racing’s challenger for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Piloting the MCL35M was one of the most competitive driver line-ups in the sport, with 21-year-old British driver Lando Norris, in his third season in Formula 1 with the team, joined by Australian seven-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
The MCL35 was effectively redesigned, despite most of the regulations being frozen in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as McLaren had already signed a contract to use Mercedes-AMG engines in 2021 before the decision to reuse 2020 chassis was made. The 1600cc V6 Mercedes-AMG M12 E Performance power unit was integrated into the design of the MCL35M by McLaren with the support of Mercedes High Performance Powertrains. It represented one of several key changes to the car as part of its evolution into the MCL35M, replacing the previous Renault E-Tech 20. Despite switching engines, McLaren did not switch gearboxes and so the team’s engineers needed to create their own, along with updated fuel, hydraulic, electrical and cooling systems.
Overall, the McLaren MCL35 earned one victory, four further podiums, one pole position and two fastest laps, scoring 275 points and finishing fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. Norris and Ricciardo finished sixth and eighth in the Drivers’ Championship respectively.