McLaren technical director James Key believes it is too soon to suggest that a high-rake concept is the best approach for Formula 1’s tweaked aero rules this year. 

Mercedes has enjoyed huge success with its low-rake design in recent years but the move to reduce downforce ahead of the 2021 season - which includes cutting away a section of the floor ahead of the rear tyre - appears to have affected the stability and handling of the team’s updated W12 car. 

This was evident throughout a troubled pre-season test for the reigning world champion squad, with both Mercedes drivers struggling to keep their cars on track as Lewis Hamilton suffered two spins on consecutive days. 

That has led to suggestions in the paddock that an extreme high-rake concept pioneered by Red Bull could be the better direction to go down after the RB16B appeared to have the edge over the field in testing and looked far more stable compared to its predecessor. 

McLaren is continuing with a “medium-to-lower-end” version of the high-rake design on its 2021 challenger but Key has predicted that both philosophies will merge as the season goes on. 

“It is a little bit early to say,” Key replied when asked which concept he believes to be the best. "We’ve only just seen the others' cars and where people are running them.

“I would imagine that the two different philosophies will coalesce around something which ultimately works for these regulations. We have been a high-rake car but on the medium-to-lower-end of that - certainly not extreme. 

“I guess you could say that the regulations have had an impact on that, but not something that is unfamiliar to us in terms of the way a car with rake and it works. 

“Whether it has had a larger impact on cars with a lower rear ride height it is difficult to tell,” he added. “It depends on where you’re coming from. We made modifications to a car that was typically quite raked. So it was based around a certain way of how the aerodynamics worked at the back of the car. 

“And everything that is upstream of that, had we been a team running a lower rake like Mercedes, the impact could have been different, so it’s a bit difficult to tell unless you are there. 

“I think things will begin to coalesce as the season goes along and you will begin to see trends emerging.”