Dissecting the W12 - Have They Made the World's Fastest Car Faster?
It's been three years in the making - but how much are the champions holding back? (A lot, by the way)
The buggers are hiding a LOT. Why?
As James Allison bluntly put it, "we don't want our competitors to see it."
Which... I can't quite argue with - but it's frustrating nonetheless.
Image from https://www.mercedesamgf1.com
Anyway, let's go over what they actually did tell us.
The biggest change they revealed on the launch were about the engine. The self-proclaimed 'sexy bulges' on the sidepod are to accommodate perhaps a larger inlet plenum which will give them more power: (both red circles on the left show the bulges)
@ScarbsTech (*) (The larger inlet plenum)
https://www.mercedesamgf1.com (The red lines show the aggressive flow paths)
The cooling package has actually been raised from the floor - a radical decision given how the centre of gravity and therefore aerodynamic performance will be negatively impacted - to promote airflow around the low area of the sidepod using the Coanda effect. Mercedes have basically found a bigger advantage in this strengthened airflow channel to the diffuser, with the trade off of a higher centre of gravity. Unconventional, but innovative - Mercedes' approach for the past couple of years which has indeed worked.
At the rear, both the wing endplate - which was copied deep into 2020 by Ferrari - and double-pillar arrangement remain.
Interestingly, they haven't accentuated the undercut on the sidepod like all of their customer teams - and this is probably because of the other changes made with the engine.
The second area of interest with regards to the engine, after better performance, was reliability. Despite Mercedes having only one PU-related DNF in 2020, their customer teams did suffer a touch : remember Perez's heart-breaking MGU-K failure in Bahrain with 3 laps left?
Mercedes High Performance Powertrains boss Hywel Thomas explained that Mercedes has sought even better thermal efficiency in the internal combustion engine, and introduced “changes to the turbocharger to minimise the impact on the heat rejection.
In 2020, we used an aluminium structure [aluminium being a light metal, but not as durable as others] which wasn’t as reliable as intended, so we’ve introduced a new alloy for the engine block."
Thomas described last year’s MGU-K as a “complete redesign”, which made a “solid step forwards in performance” but was also “difficult to manufacture and assemble consistently”.
That led to some cases of mid-life failures, which HPP has sought to understand and address.
“We have changed it for this year, to allow for a more consistent manufacturing route which should help to improve the reliability of the MGU-K,” he said.
The bargeboard along the nose cone structure is W11 inspired but to align the refashioned sidepods, the latter edges are of a new iteration.
Furthermore, not only is the nose, front wing and so on similar to the W11, but the floor isn't actually the one they'll be running in testing. It's a lot like McLaren's; a simple cutaway which hasn't done much to mitigate the new regulations. James Allison said they spent lots of time on this area - and don't want to reveal their solution just yet. Most of changes from the launch renders, to mitigate the altered regs, are to do with the sidepod and it's unclear where exactly they've used their tokens.
The brake ducts have basically flipped horizontally - instead of the top being larger on the W11, the bottom is wider on the W12 presumably to again align the flow with the new bargeboard configuration. And apart from that, they've hidden everything!
Seeing as the F1 giants stopped developing the 2020 car by Round 7 last year, you should expect a monster of a car - both with the engine and aerodynamically. There's more to come.
All pictures are from the above sources, whilst all edits except those with an asterisk are my own. The credits are as follows:
* = @ScarbsTech
Also the livery is an absolute banger. Argue with the wall.