Throughout the remainder of February, every Formula 1 team is planning to reveal its 2022 challenger. The next is Red Bull, which will pull the covers off its RB18 on Wednesday. Two days later, on Friday, we’ll get to see the MCL36 — McLaren’s chariot for the upcoming season. But we might have just seen it a few days early.
To drum up enthusiasm, the team revealed a Lego Technic kit based on the new car, which will be available to buy starting March 1 for $180. It looks awesome, but I’m especially interested in one particular picture on the back of the box, comparing the model with its inspiration.
That’s clearly a 2022 chassis in the background there, but is it the 2022 chassis? For starters, it’s sporting last year’s McLaren livery, the same one seen on the MCL35 throughout 2021. McLaren’s press release about the toy is clear on that, and carefully couches the Lego model “an interpretation of the new-look 2022 F1 race cars.” Meanwhile, Lego’s copy more definitively calls it a “detailed model replica of McLaren’s 2022 F1 car.”
That render in the back could be the generic demo car that F1 trotted around last year, with an outdated McLaren livery applied to it. Though F1 sort of conducted its own visual experiment along those lines last year in a blog, and the results didn’t pan out exactly the same, comparing F1's imagining with that admittedly blurry screenshot off the back of the Lego packaging.
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The shark fin on the back is a little slimmer in profile on F1's render, the front wing endplates have a slightly longer and wider shape to them and the halo, diffuser and rear wing all appear to have been nipped and tucked in various ways.
I doubt McLaren would quietly or accidentally reveal its entire 2022 car on the back of a Lego set, but I’m puzzled by this picture. Why market an expensive model kit with “2022” writ large on the box, despite last year’s livery plastered over it? I’m genuinely curious how similar the car we see on Friday will look compared to this render. It’s food for thought, which was probably the hope all along. If the 2022 McLaren does look exactly like that, though, I’d be totally cool with it. It’s a pretty car.
We’ve reached out to McLaren for clarification on the nature of that render and will update this story should we hear anything.
Update February 8, 2022 11:59 a.m. ET: Minutes after this went live, McLaren PR personnel got back to us with an official statement about the render in question:
“The LEGO Technic model packaging features an image of a generic 2022 inspired car with McLaren’s 2021 livery. Neither the livery or the car itself are representative of McLaren’s 2022 contender, the MCL36.
“The MCL36 will be revealed live on Friday on the McLaren YouTube channel, check the McLaren website and social channels for more.”