McLaren is aiming to further close the gap to Mercedes and Red Bull in 2021, and is prioritizing that over its final constructors’ championship position.

Last season McLaren secured third in the constructors’ points, beating Racing Point and Renault in a close fight while Ferrari struggled with an uncompetitive power unit and poor car. While expecting a fightback from the Scuderia, and with Racing Point and Renault rebranded as Aston Martin and Alpine respectively, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown primarily wants to see the deficit to the front coming down this year.

“The field is unbelievably close, but challenging for the championship would be unrealistic given the journey that we are on,” Brown said as the MCL35M was unveiled. “I think all we can hope for, and are striving for, is to close the gap to Mercedes, who we anticipate to be the fastest team again in 21.

“The rules haven’t changed significantly, so I don’t think that 2021 will look much different from 2020 for the entire grid, other than expecting it to get yet even closer. We went into Abu Dhabi with the ability to finish third, fourth or fifth, and I think it’s that close and anticipate it being even closer this year.

“So, all we can really do is key off who is the fastest team and hope that we close the gap. But short of that, it’s too competitive to give any sort of prediction.

“We’re going to keep our eyes in all the competition. It would be naive to underestimate any of the competition that was so close last year. So our goal is to close the gap to the front. We’re not focused on a particular team or on who’s got what power unit. We want to be the best of the customer teams, but the one target in mind is to close the gap to the front of the field.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl agrees with Brown, although he is hoping that any McLaren progress with the Mercedes-powered MCL35M to the front of the field will also result in it finding time compared to its main rivals from 2020.

“It was a great achievement for us to achieve P3 last year,” Seidl said. “Going into this year, we expect again another tough battle with all the competitors we were fighting with last year. We have Lando (Norris) now going into his third year in F1; we have Daniel (Ricciardo) on board with us, who is a clear reference in this sport.

“We have the championship-winning power unit in the back of our car, and I think we have everything we need to make a step forward. As a team also, with how we work together.

“It is clear we want to get closer to the cars in front of us, to the Mercedes and the Red Bull cars, which we managed last year. At the same, we want to make sure we gain on all the competitors around us. I think there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic and again, we need to be realistic and that’s how we see it.”