McLaren technical chief James Key is confident the MCL35 has made clear gains in the weak areas of its predecessor as the team looks to cement its place at the head of the Formula 1 midfield while also closing the gap to the front three.

Following an overhaul of McLaren’s F1 operations, the MCL35 marks the team’s first F1 car with Key overseeing the total design and development since joining early last year.

McLaren has introduced tighter power unit packaging and bodywork, a slimmer nose and matte paint livery for its 2020 F1 car.

Key says his central focus was to improve upon the weak points of the 2019 car but with stable regulations he has played down finding significant performance gains relative to the rest of the F1 field.

“I think you have to have a target to work to so you can figure out where to be, one of those is to get to the front but that’s a huge step, to get that in a year would be very welcome but it is a massive step,” Key said.

“I think ultimately there were certain targets based around what we learned from last year and the weaknesses we wanted to address.

“We could see that some weaknesses were quite similar across teams we were competing with, when you look at the bigger three teams, so we have been looking closely at those kinds of area, we have made progress there.

“The medium-term target is to maintain our position and hopefully close the gap a bit and then build on that, so if we can be in that place then we can achieve that target, the realistic target that we have.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has echoed Key’s sentiments as he believes the same mentality has been applied to its entire F1 team operations for the upcoming season.

“One thing is to set targets for the car development and at the same time we are on this journey getting back up on the grid in F1. We have set a lot of targets we want to achieve in terms of team side, organisation, infrastructure, the way we work together, and so on, and I can definitely say we’re quite happy with what we achieved over the winter.

“Pit stop were a big topic for us last year. I am happy with progress there with the equipment and so on, we still need to make it work at the track in winter testing and towards Melbourne.

“I think there’s a lot of things there that make us optimistic going into the season but at the same time we need to be realistic about what is achievable from one year to the next.”

McLaren has completed a shakedown run and filming day with its MCL35 today (February 16) at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in preparation for the start of pre-season testing at the Spanish track on February 19.