At the tenth race of the championship at Silverstone, Mercedes brought the long-announced package of aerodynamic improvements which could decide their chances of fighting the faster Red Bull who increased its advantage in the drivers’ and constructors’ championship – we bring an overview of changes to the Mercedes F1 W12.
The world champions lost the most by changing the rules about the dimensions of the floor and they had to partially compensate for the loss of the rear downforce with a larger rear wing, which cost them aerodynamic efficiency and straightline speed.
Downforce from the floor is extremely efficient because for the same amount of downforce it provides less air resistance so teams work hard to send the best possible airflow under the car and try to isolate it from external turbulence, especially from turbulence from the front and rear wheels.
This is more difficult this year than last due to the smaller dimensions of the floor in front of the rear wheels, which is a critical area for diffuser efficiency, but also due to the ban on using slots used by teams to create vortices sent from inside the rear wheels to better protect the diffuser from turbulence.
In its upgrade package, Mercedes has focused on the area that has brought the most performance in recent years, so they have changed the geometry and layout of the air deflectors in front of the sidepods – the main vertical deflector (pink), which receives turbulent airflow from the front wheels and sends it around the sidepods, is no longer connected to the horizontal element (turquoise), which is not the first time that Mercedes has used such a solution.
The horizontal element (turquoise) also got a small vortex generator at the top (orange) while the five horizontal elements (yellow) now take up more width than before because the double vertical element at their base (orange) is shortened in height.
This area is critical because of the way it receives the airflow coming between the chassis and the front wheels and how that airflow is further directed to critical points around the sidepods.
In the image below you can see what this area has looked like so far on the Mercedes F1 W12, and although the changes are not drastic they are big enough to bring more downforce from the floor which is crucial for aerodynamic efficiency under the car.
Mercedes also discarded the wavy edge of the front of the floor (pictured above, right from the pink-marked deflector) and now there’s a simpler solution with flatter cascading elements, similar to the solutions used by some other teams.
While Mercedes doesn’t want to reveal how much time per lap the new package carries, its efficiency could be crucial for Mercedes’ hopes to keep up in the technological battle with Red Bull who has been aggressively bringing a series of minor improvements to its RB16B over the past few races.
Hamilton says there have been a lot of changes to the car, but that this is not a huge improvement that should completely close Mercedes’ gap behind Red Bull and their job will be hampered by a new weekend format with only one free practice ahead of qualifying after which changes are no longer allowed for the most of the car settings.