Can McLaren F1 be Competitive in 2021?
McLaren is evolving. They changed their driver line-up, and brought the Mercedes engine back. Will this make them more competitive?
Formula One endured a strange year in 2020. In fact, we all had a strange year in 2020. One thing that stood out in the world of F1, was McLaren's rise back through the points. Landing themselves third in the constructors championship was a big deal for this team. Third in the championship was an accomplishment they had not matched since 2012.
Now that McLaren has newfound success, it seems imperative they have to keep going until they reach the front of the grid. This sport is about coming in first place, after all. Which is a place McLaren have been in the past, and strive for in the future.
So they brought in Daniel Ricciardo on a two year contract, replacing Carlos Sainz. Norris and Sainz were probably the most notable teammates in 2020, from humorous antics off track - to sportsmanlike competitiveness on track. They had chemistry, and this driver pairing seemed to work well for the whole of McLaren. Both drivers saw themselves to the podium in 2020.
So what about Danny Ric and Lando? Well, the "honey badger" and Norris have not quite had the chemistry that Carlos and Lando did. Lando seems to think Daniel is "not a big step above" Carlos in terms of driving. During the press conference for the release of the 2021 McLaren MCL35M, things seemed a bt awkward between the two, and fans sensed a bit of tension. Will this tension come to light during a Grand Prix weekend? Only time will tell, but things have gotten out of hand between the Australian and his teammates before - Lando may be no different.
And with the new MCL35M comes a new power unit, a Mercedes engine to replace the old, less powerful Renault engine. Does a new engine mean more pace? Not exactly, the team has had to redesign the aerodynamics of the car to fit the engine in, which will pose new challenges as they progress through the season. They also will have to grasp the mechanical aspect of the engine. Mercedes has even admitted to facing some issues with the 2021 power unit, which could plague McLaren with reliability problems, resulting in DNFs. Overall, if the team can get a good understanding of the new car with it's new Mercedes power unit, they should be able to use it to their advantage, as long as the engine proves reliable.
And what of the other teams? Mercedes AMG Petronas still have a strong grasp on the top spot of the podium. It is not likely we will see a new winner arise in 2021. Red Bull, are winding down their partnership with Honda, but still have the formidable pilot Max Verstappen in the cockpit, alongside newcomer Sergio Perez. Both these teams by many predictions, will stay in their respective positions from 2020 into 2021.
So where does that leave McLaren? MacLaren will probably struggle to retain a P3 in the constructors championship. After all, the fight for P3 in the 2020 constructors' championship was insanely close that fans paid more attention to that than the antics of Red Bull and Mercedes. This tight battle in the midfield will likely transition into the 2021 season, making McLaren's fight for a 3rd spot in the title, a tough one. Their goal should be the best of the rest, and another 3rd place finish in the championship. Here's to hoping Norris and Ricciardo get it done.