McLaren finished the year strongly, with Lando Norris and Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz fifth and sixth in Abu Dhabi, to jump Racing Point and classify third in the standings.
F1 teams will re-use their 2020 cars next season because new technical rules have been delayed to 2022 to save costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Development will not be completely frozen, with aerodynamic components free to be changed and a token system put in place to restrict upgrades on more fundamental parts.
McLaren is the only team changing engine suppliers from 2020 to 2021, moving from Renault to Mercedes, and has a unique need to adapt the rear of its car to install the different power unit and associated components.
After successfully overhauling Racing Point to clinch third place in the constructors’ championship in a thrilling conclusion to an intense season-long midfield battle, McLaren will be looking upwards once more in 2021.
McLaren was able to make some impressive gains throughout the season and ended the year with Lando Norris qualifying within 0.251 seconds of pole position in Abu Dhabi despite placing most of its emphasis on the development of its 2021 challenger.
With a switch to Mercedes power coming, and a strong driver line-up in the shape of Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, all eyes will be on McLaren to see if it can keep cutting the gap to both Red Bull and Mercedes.
“I’m really happy to see a McLaren so close,” said world champion Hamilton, who raced for the Woking team between 2007 and 2012.
“They’ve got changes, and they’re using our engine next year. It’s great to see that they’re ending the year with a good car.
“Perhaps they can be in the fight with us next year. If it makes it a three-way team championship, that would be amazing for the fans to see.”
McLaren have made strides in recent seasons and finished ‘best of the rest’ in 2020. They will benefit from switching to Mercedes’ class-leading power units this year, having previously used Renaults.
The arrival of Daniel Ricciardo means they have a proven race-winner in their line-up for the first time since 2018. And they’ve recently announced a significant increase in funding.
McLaren arguably over-performed by taking third place last year, as their car was often not the third-quickest. Incorporating the new power unit will mean more compromises elsewhere.
And while the new investment is welcome, it arrived after much of the development work on their 2021 car was completed. They have also lost Carlos Sainz Jnr, their top scorer of the past two seasons, to rivals Ferrari.
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THE NEXT RACE 2021
|Bahrain ||26 Mar|
|14:30 - 15:30||Free practice 1|
|18:00 - 19:00||Free practice 2|
|15:00 - 16:00||Free practice 3|
|18:00 - 19:00||Qualifying|
|18:00 - 20:00||Race|
|Bahrain||57 laps||308.238 km|