The biggest technical challenge in the cars of F1 for 2021 has been adapting to new aerodynamic regulations with the introduction of significant changes in key areas seeking slow down the racing cars. However, the teams have invested time and some money to compensate for this loss of load. Such is the case of the team Mercedes and Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance.
"If you are looking to reduce the speed of a car, which is indeed what the regulation changes were intended to do, modifying the floor is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve the goal", said James allison, technical manager of the German team.
“The floor is such an important aerodynamic component that small geometric changes lead to big reductions in performance. Once the rules were in place, our task was to figure out how to recoup the losses caused by the changes. ", Agregó.
The four key floor modifications they were a triangular cutout at the edge of the floor in front of the rear wheels, one reduction in the size of the rear brake duct fins, a decrease in the height of the two inner strakes closest to the car's centerline on the diffuser and the sealing of the grooves in the ground around the bargeboards.
These aerodynamic changes have been a key focus in the development of the W12, which has many parts identical to the W11 2020. In some ways, this has decreased the peak of work required for the new car, but it has also created its own new challenges and difficulties.
“What is transferred will look different from team to team because the rules did not require the same things to transfer. The rules freeze a large part of the car, although each team had two tokens to spend on changing their car ”, the engineer pointed out.
“Also, there are some parts of the car that you can change without tokens, for example, the power unit, the cooling systems, the suspension and of course all the aerodynamic surfaces… Once the tournament starts, practically everything that There is under the skin of the car should be frozen throughout the year. With the specific permission of the FIA, you can make changes to improve reliability or save costs, but if there is something about the car that is not working well, that problem will continue throughout the season. ” Allison clarifies.
Significant aerodynamic changes to the floor and adaptation to handover rules have kept the Mercedes team busy, but there are opportunities for improvement in many areas of the car and its engineers have been working tirelessly to find an advantage.
"Our other aerodynamic work has been the usual to look for aerodynamic opportunities in every square centimeter of the car, with special attention to places where we can invest extra weight in a more elegant aerodynamic geometry"James added.
“2021 allows cars to weigh 6 kg more and we have a few extra kilos to spend as a result of the DAS ban. Beyond this, the transfer rules have limited us to figuring out how we can make some parts live longer, so they don't need to be replaced or purchased as often. " Indian.
New aerodynamic testing restrictions come into effect this year and the overall amount of time allotted for wind tunnel testing and CFD testing will be reduced.. Besides that, there is a way to handicap, which grants teams less or more access to these aerodynamic tools depending on their position in the championship. Therefore, due to Mercedes' victory in the 2020 championship it has 22% less access compared to the last ranked team.
“We have always tried to get the most out of the wind tunnel and the CFD, but there is nothing like having a new restriction imposed to renew the momentum to be more productive and efficient. We are determined to find better ways of working to mitigate the effect of this disability "Allison stated.
Another thing they took into account at Mercedes is the new compound to be used by Pirelli, which is tougher than in 2020. While the teams tested them last year in Portimão, Bahrain y Abu DhabiNone have had much experience with it and with only three days of pre-season testing this year, every lap on the track will count towards catching up on these new tires.
“The tire is a bit slower, due to trade-off for greater durability, but it's consistent and should give us a smooth run. However, it will be an interesting competitive factor during 2021. Every time a tire is changed, it is always a learning race between the teams to find their sweet spot, where the new rubber offers its best performance ”explained the technician.
But at Mercedes they are not only focused on the 2021 tournament, but also on 2022 and for this they have a working group that is specifically focused on the new rules that the F.1 will use from next year. “The ideal situation would be to have a car that is so brilliantly fast that you can almost immediately turn your back on it and focus on the next one. But Formula 1 is never that simple ”, the English technician finished.