Mercedes Reveals Newest Formula One Challenger

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The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance race car that will contest the 2021 Formula One schedule with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance race car that will contest the 2021 Formula One schedule with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

BRACKLEY, England – Officials from the defending Formula One champions, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, have revealed the team’s challenger for upcoming season.

The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance was revealed Tuesday in the new race bays at the organization’s Brackley technical center, officially opening the facility in the process.

“Every year we reset our focus and define the right objectives,” said Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff. “That may sound simple but it’s damn hard and is probably why there are no sports teams out there with seven consecutive titles. So many things can happen and it’s very natural to get used to success, and therefore not fight as hard for it.

“But this team has not shown any of that. I see the same fire, hunger and passion now as I did the first time I walked through the doors in 2013. Every season presents a new challenge and therefore, a new goal for us to achieve. 2021 brings changes to the regulations, which could impact our competitiveness, plus the cost cap and working on the major rule changes of 2022. These challenges excite us.”

The team’s newest challenger is named Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance and is the team’s first car to use the E Performance designation, signifying its closer alignment to the Mercedes-AMG performance division in the future. E Performance is the new technology label that will be used in product names and badges on all forthcoming Mercedes-AMG performance hybrid cars – which feature direct cascade technology from F-1 and, in particular, the work of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth.

The team’s closer cooperation with AMG is also reflected in the new livery, with AMG branding replacing the star pattern on the engine cover, which now fades to Mercedes’ traditional racing silver from the black base livery introduced last year.

The most prominent color remains the green of title partner Petronas on the front and rear wings, nose, mirrors and halo, with the parallel green and silver stripes on the flanks of the car symbolizing more than a decade of partnership between Mercedes and Petronas. The visual identity is completed by the burgundy of team shareholder and Principal Partner Ineos, which features on the airbox and the inside of the front wing endplates.

This season also marks the beginning of a new chapter for the team following the announcement late last year that Wolff, Daimler and Ineos will be one-third, equal shareholders.

“The fact that we were able to attract INEOS as an investor shows that we have a strong business case and that F-1 continues to be a highly attractive platform for big brands and companies,” said Wolff. “We’re also seeing a slight shift in the way that F1 teams operate as the cost cap and the new structure move us towards a business model that is more familiar in American sports franchises.

“At the same time, having three strong shareholders in the team gives us even more stability for the future. On a personal level, I’m very happy to commit to the team for the long term and increase my share slightly. I’ve always said that this team is like a family to me, and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”

The team has introduced several significant changes to key performance areas on the car.

“If you’re looking to slow a car down, which is effectively what the regulation changes were intended to do, modifying the floor is by far the easiest and cheapest way of achieving your objective,” said Technical Director James Allison. “The floor is such an important aerodynamic component that small geometrical changes bring large reductions in performance. Once the rules had been established, our task was to figure out how to recover the losses brought by the changes.”

The four key modifications to the floor are:

  • A triangular cut-out on the edge of the floor, in front of the rear wheels.
  • Reducing the span of the rear brake duct winglets, by a few centimeters.
  • Reducing the height of the two inboard strakes nearest the car centerline in the diffuser.
  • Sealing up the slots in the floor around the bargeboards.

The aerodynamic changes have been a key focus in the development of the W12, but some of the parts on the new car are identical to the W11 due to the new carryover rules.

“What’s carried over will look different from team to team, because the rules didn’t require you to carry over the same things,” said Allison. “The rules freeze a large chunk of the car, but then give each team two tokens to spend on changing their car. Along with the tokens comes a shopping list showing how many tokens are required for each change. How teams decided what to use their tokens on was entirely up to them.

“In addition, there are some parts of the car that you can change token-free, for example the Power Unit, the cooling systems, the suspension and of course all of the aerodynamic surfaces. We have spent our tokens, but we won’t reveal how we used them just yet. That’ll become clear in good time. Once the racing gets underway, pretty much everything under the skin of the car must then be frozen for the entire year. With the specific permission of the FIA, you can make changes for reliability or cost saving, but if part of your car isn’t performing well, then you are stuck with it for the whole season.”

In terms of the power unit, team officials say they’ve been chasing every possible improvement to deliver a step forward in performance.

“We are going into the eighth season of pretty stable regulations, so we have a good understanding of the current hybrid engines,” said Hywel Thomas, who oversees engine development for the team. “Our new product is a characteristic Mercedes-AMG Power Unit, but we’ve worked hard to take the next development step. Stable regulations mean that it’s getting increasingly challenging to unlock additional performance, so you need a focused approach.

“We identified three main areas to work on: first, we’ve continued the development of the technology in the Power Unit. That’s a continuous process, and we feel like we’ve been able to take a step forward on that front again this year. The second area is reliability. We discovered some design issues last year, so we’ve been looking at those and introduced some changes to address them. And we’ve also got some completely new innovations that will be in the racing PU for the first time. That was particularly challenging because last season finished late, so the winter period has been shorter than normal and has given us less time to prepare, which put extra strain on the business.”