Test driver, Pedro de la Rosa, was at the wheel of the MP4-21 as it left the garage for the first time to complete its installation lap. The revised engine regulations for 2006, with the change from V10 to V8, has dominated the overall design process. Research into a direction for the MP4-21 began in August 2004, when Team McLaren Mercedes started to consider the new V8, 2.4 litre power plant, which as in 2005 has to last for two Grands Prix weekend. Designed and built from scratch, the Mercedes-Benz FO 108S V8, which ran for the first time at Silverstone on 13th September 2005 following its dyno debut on 15th June of the same year, also has to conform to the below restrictions: V-angle of the cylinders set a 90 degrees - Use of a maximum of two inlet and exhaust valves each, previously restrictions have only covered the number of cylinders and a limit of five valves - Minimum engine weight of 95 kilograms - Maximum cylinder bore of 98 millimetres - The position of the engine's centre of gravity - Precisely defined alloys for the manufacturing of engine components
In October of 2004, the design team began its research into revised engine systems concepts, with the new regulations providing the opportunity to develop areas such as the cooling system, air and oil consumption and fuel supply. Aerodynamics also received early attention, with the development programme starting as the 2005 season was getting underway in April of that year and the aero specification set in late October / early November. A key area of focus was the opportunity to exploit the smaller power unit by repackaging the rear of the car. In addition, the regulation change that stipulates the forward deflectors ahead of the reference plane must be raised by 50mm proved to be significant to the aerodynamics of MP4-21 and required innovative solutions from the Team McLaren Mercedes design team.
April 2005 also saw initial transmission and drive train work begin and the following month, the first spec of MP4-21 was issued by the design team. By September, production had begun, with chassis manufacturing starting one month later. Other key regulation changes include the increase in crash test loads to the rear structure by 50 per cent, leading to the development of complex composite structures to absorb the required energy. Late December saw the MP4-21 chassis complete its first FIA crash test. On the sporting side, there is a new qualifying format and the return to tyre changes in pit stops. The latter has been a focus of the extensive winter testing schedule throughout December and January to date, with the team working alongside Michelin to develop the new compounds and constructions for 2006. By the end of the final test in December 2005, Team McLaren Mercedes had covered over 6,000kms with the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine.
Company press release, last updated on January 24, 2006