Mercedes: Switching front wing concepts would take months
Mercedes says changing its front wing concept to a Ferrari-style version is a project that would take months to complete, but it accepts it must be "open-minded" to work out if its rival's idea is better.
The new 2019 Formula 1 aero regulations have thrown up a fascinating divergence of approaches about how best to manage airflow at the front of the car.
While teams like Mercedes and Red Bull have opted for more traditional front wing designs, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have done something totally different – with the outer edges of the front wing sloping downwards towards the endplate to help produce outwash.
Ferrari's strong start to pre-season testing last week, allied to Mercedes' low-key beginning, has prompted questions about whether or not the front wing designs are playing a part in their performance.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his team doing its own thing had served it well over recent years, but reckoned that it should not ignore the possibility that there could be better ideas out there.
"You need to be open minded," he said at an event for Mercedes' title sponsor Petronas. "We have always had a different design philosophy to many of the other teams.
"We have gone longer than the other teams. We have never had rake in the car compared to some of the other teams. It is not because we believed our concept was superior in every angle, but we believe that the whole car power unit package was the best for us that way.
"Having said that, with new regulatory change, you need to be open minded about what the others have done. And if something functions better, every team at the moment will look at what the others have put on the car and try it themselves."
Pushed on if the team would make a switch, Wolff said: "These are things you don't do from one day to another. If you were to think to change the aerodynamic concept of the car, it is not a matter of days or weeks. It is a matter of months."
Wolff's timeline of it taking several months to switch front wing concepts is in line with what Renault technical director Nick Chester predicts it would take.
"If you decided you were on the wrong tack and you needed to go to a very different front wing concept, it wouldn't be easy," Chester said, when asked by Motorsport.com about how challenging it would be to totally switch concepts.
"You would put it on and find that it was a long way down to start with. Then, you would have to develop with it for a couple of months to get it working, so it would not be easy switching – and definitely not from one end of the scale to the other."
Chester said his team was still evaluating the different concepts of wings, and suggested that over the course of the season there could be some convergence between outfits on the best design.
"We are obviously always interested in what other people are doing, so we are looking at the other options out there," he said.
"There are a wide variety between trying to get as much outboard loading as you can and trying to use the outwash to push the wheel wake out, to try to unload that and not stress the flap and the endplate structures too much.
"So there is a bit of a balance to be struck and over the season we will see how everyone develops, and I expect there could be a tendency to go one way. But on the other hand there are cars performing quite well out there with different solutions."
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Force India technical director Andy Green said it was not impossible that the different approaches remained, as teams juggled how to balance getting downforce from the front wing over the benefits of outwash.
"Teams like Mercedes have done their own philosophy for quite a long time," he said. "They've stood out as being different and they've won five championships. So there's always room for another philosophy, and they've proved that over the years.
"We may end up with several, one or two different philosophies around the front wing and both of them could be equally as competitive. We'll have to wait and see."
Additional reporting by Marco Congiu
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