The Woking-based outfit followed Aston Martin in becoming just the second F1 team to present its real 2022 car on Friday evening, in contrast to some of their rivals who have opted to conceal their new designs. 

Last week, Haas published digital renders of an early evolution of its VF-22, while Red Bull used a basic show car design when launching its RB18 challenger on Wednesday. 

Key confirmed the MCL36 is the actual car that will run at the opening pre-season test in Barcelona but said all 10 teams are likely to make significant changes to their respective contenders ahead of the first race in Bahrain. 

“I think we can be proud of presenting a real car, because it absolutely is,” Key said ahead of the launch of McLaren’s 2022 car at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking. “It’s the car we’ll be taking to Barcelona.

“Yes, we’ve hidden a few bits and pieces for obvious reasons - there are some sensitive areas. As far as the development plan is concerned, like every team I’m sure, we have development steps to come early on, because it is still very much a learning process at this stage.

“We’ll be bringing some updates to Bahrain and the next parts are already in process now. I think we’ll see the car change. I’m sure everyone’s car is going to change.”

And Key is not expecting the pecking order to remain the same as the season progresses due to the new generation cars having “so much development potential”. 

“There’s less of a philosophy behind how these cars work, which I think will emerge over time, and that means it’s never too late to catch up if you are on the back foot or, for that matter, drop back if you start well,” he explained. 

“The season is going to ebb and flow and it is going to be very transient as to who’s there on the day as we progress, and the pecking order will map out later in the season, or certainly later in the season than the first race.”