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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Tech analysis: Dissecting the new Mercedes W08

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Tech analysis: Dissecting the new Mercedes W08
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Co-author: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes has been the class of the field for the last three seasons and does not look to be giving up any of its advantage any time soon given the level of detail presented on the W08.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08

Photo by: XPB Images

While many of these numerous components are similar to their predecessors in concept, they've still been revised, along with wide sweeping changes to key parts of the car, especially where more freedom has been given to the designers.

Front wing

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 front wing detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 front wing detail

Photo by: Mercedes AMG

Conceptually, the front wing seen at the launch is very similar to last year's car, albeit adjusted in width to correlate with the wider Pirelli tyres.

However, from a detail point of view there are several changes - the team was the first to work on the more aggressive outwash tunnel in 2015 and while this has been carried over, the bellmouth on the leading edge seems slightly wider (arrowed), driving more air under the wing.

The main cascade has been re-profiled and now sits adrift of the endplate, with just a small support used to increase rigidity (arrowed), which also gives a clearer path to the inner canard just behind the cascade.

Mercedes front wing, endplate gap, Malaysian GP
Mercedes front wing, endplate gap, Malaysian GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It is unlikely that what was presented on the launch car is the final specification front wing either - lest we forget Mercedes was already looking at concepts for 2017 during the latter part of last season, including the open-ended solution in the illustration above.

Nose

The nose is a carryover from the W07 too, but having increased in length by 200mm (by regulation), it now features a more pronounced pelican underbelly.

This is not only done in order to work more effectively with the front wing's neutral section but also to provide the direction needed for airflow to be encouraged to enter the enlarged 'S' duct inlet [2].

Much like last year's car, the 'S' duct's upper outlet is formed by the trailing edge of the nose and a sculpted vanity panel.

Nose cameras

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 front detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 front detail

Photo by: Mercedes AMG

This is an area of the regulations that the FIA has been trying to tidy up for some time, with Mercedes choosing to place the cameras on stalks since 2014 in order to improve their aerodynamic footprint.

With the size of these stalks being reduced year-on-year, the team has still set the cameras slightly adrift from the nose to garner an advantage.

Turning vanes

The turning vanes [3] may outwardly seem like a backwards step given the team ran a more intricate version in the latter part of the 2016 but the ones seen on the W08, although vaguely representative of those used in the early part of last season, have several geometrical differences including, but not limited to, less vertical slotting, but the interesting addition is another horizontal winglet mounted on the last element.

Bat wing

Mercedes W05 bottom view
Mercedes W05 bottom view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes started a trend that was picked up by several teams between 2014-16 whereby a horizontal winglet would sit either astride the ride height sensor or between the turning vanes.

Mercedes' version quickly earned the "bat-wing" moniker given its resemblance to the winged mammal but many other solutions were tried by others, including a splitter winglet by Red Bull that was latterly converged on by McLaren and Ferrari.

Mercedes has not given up on the concept and fielded a similar solution on the W08 for the team's launch.

This year's bat-wing is a little more hidden though, as several pre-bargeboards are mounted alongside the ride-height sensor, the innermost of which is hung from a metal spar on the radius of the underside of the chassis.

Another pre-bargeboard turned outward more aggressively can then be found hung from that via two metal supports, both of which work in unison with all of the other structures in their vicinity.

Front suspension

Kinematically and aerodynamically this is a critical part of the car, with Mercedes having led the way in many respects for the last few seasons.

We know that the conjoined lower wishbone concept, first introduced in 2014, found its way onto most of the other challengers in the field given the aerodynamic advantages it afforded.

So too does the placement of the steering arms, positioned in line with the wishbone in order to take further advantage of how the air then moved down the car.

On top of this they've been at the forefront of hydraulically-linked suspension, with their hydraulic third damper part of a row that erupted in the off-season, as other teams felt their way around the systems and asked the FIA for clarification.

The system in question is as much about controlling the aerodynamic platform as it is the suspension's compliance but the two aren't mutually exclusive in any case, making it difficult for the FIA to outright ban such concepts - which is why the debate still rumbles on.

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 front wing detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 front wing detail

Photo by: XPB Images

The conjoined lower wishbone hasn't been completely abandoned for 2017 but it's perhaps not as aggressive as it could have been, as the regulations surrounding the angle of the suspension fairings have been adjusted +/- another five degrees for 2017, meaning the same can be achieved by simply angling those fairings.

The rear leg of the lower wishbone is also interesting, with a ledge created as it transitions from the conjoined section to create the rear leg [5], this will undoubtedly work the airflow in tandem with the other fins that are attached to the brake duct.

However, where Mercedes has broken the mould is the outboard pickup point for the upper wishbone [4], you'll note that a horn protrudes from the upright, placing the pickup both higher and further back than is normally viable.

This is clearly going to have both mechanical and aerodynamic ramifications as the team looks to exploit any additional grip from the wider tyres, while also considering how to deal with the extra wake that the wider front tyre generates and how to improve the quality of air reaching the bargeboards and leading edge of the floor.

Bargeboards, chassis horns and floor

This area of the car is going to eat up a huge amount of development time as the regulations mature with similarities to the complexity of the 2008 generation of cars present in these early stages.

The chassis horns (the upper of the two appendages pointed to by 6) are very similar to the devices we saw used by several teams in 2008, although the ones used by Ferrari are perhaps the closest in terms of overall design.

The Mercedes interpretation is reminiscent of a pectoral fin, occupying a similar position to that of where it would be on a sea creature and likely serves a similar purpose, offering aerodynamic stability in yaw.

Furthermore, we can expect that airflow shed from the device will improve the performance of airflow destined for the sidepod's inlet.

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 detail

Photo by: XPB Images

The bargeboards are tall structures with variable geometry, which sit away from the chassis at their uppermost edge before tapering in under the chassis to work with the splitter.

They have a large stepped upper edge that reduces in height as it wraps around the floor and sidepods and also features a large serrated footplate which will pass performance to the sidepod and floor downstream.

In the gap between the bargeboard and chassis the team has placed a small fin (red arrow, below), similar to what it has done behind its bargeboards before in order to improve how the airflow operates in these tight confines.

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 floor detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 floor detail

Photo by: XPB Images

The floor's axehead [8], which is longer due to the regulation changes in 2017, terminates where it meets the bargeboard, in behind which a detached floor scroll can be found.

The floor ahead of the sidepod features a similar curved radius (dotted yellow line) to what we've seen during several of the car launches but, interestingly, there may be some adverse flow conditioning devices placed in front of it, in a similar - albeit less adventurous - fashion to the ones used last year that were dubbed the 'W-Floor' (white arrows).

Airflow conditioners

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 detail

Photo by: XPB Images

The sidepod airflow conditioners [7] have increased in size and complexity for 2017 given the dimensional freedom afforded in the regulations.

Whereas previously we've seen a simple vertical element used to frame the sidepod before transitioning over the upper surface to form a slat, the W08 features two more elements placed over the floor's axehead, both of which are shaped in order to maximise the movement of airflow around the sidepod's undercut and for protection from the wake shed by the front wheel.

The three-piece airflow conditioner is tied together by a strake that'll also serve its own aerodynamic purpose.

Mirrors

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 mirror detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 mirror detail

Photo by: Mercedes AMG

Mercedes employed a twin-stalk arrangement in 2016 but the team has gone even more aggressive in their application for 2017, placing the mirror on the rear stalk while the forward element has a tightly wound C-shaping and will undoubtedly shed quite an intense vortex.

The mirror casing is also larger than its predecessor, which is likely an aero-driven solution given the actual mirror is recessed within. Enclosed within the unit are thermal sensors, a driver-facing camera and infrared cameras too, allowing the team to monitor both the driver and tyres whilst out on track.

Sidepods

Whereas some of the other teams that have launched so far have taken the opportunity to narrow the frontal region of their sidepods, Mercedes has actually widened it, which is in keeping with the extra 100mm per side tolerance allowed by the new regulations.

However, whilst the sidepods have this extra girth, the sidepod's inlet is perhaps the shallowest we've seen, allowing for an extreme undercut that tapers down the rest of the car into a very narrow coke bottle region, that is framed by an elevated cooling outlet [11], which begins in line with where we'd expect the engine and exhausts to sit.

In order to achieve this new-found slimness, the team has seemingly re-angled the radiators within the sidepods to facilitate the aerodynamic concept.

Floor

The new rules pertaining to the radius of the floor have allowed the team to make some adjustments [9] with a much longer and taller scroll being utilised on the W08.

The floor ahead of the rear tyre [12] has been an area of concern for the designers for quite some time now and can help to improve the performance of the diffuser by limiting how much air 'squirts' laterally into the diffuser's path as the tyre deforms.

As the tyres are wider in 2017, it's of no surprise that this area is once again under development, with Mercedes opting for one large diagonal slot at the rear supplemented by a further eight smaller diagonal slots.

Rear suspension/gearbox

The team has made significant changes at the rear of the car, changing the geometry of the suspension components, trading them for much shorter versions and leaving the pull rod in a much more upright position [13].

These suspension alterations are likely allied to layout changes made by the team to the gearbox with a similar approach tried by Ferrari last season.

Engine cover

With the exception of Williams, the other cars launched so far have all featured a variation on the shark fin theme that became prominent in 2008 when the height of the rear wing was similar to what we'll have this year.

Mercedes launched the W08 with an engine cover similar in fin height to what was used last year [14] but has already suggested it will test its own version of the shark fin in Barcelona, given the aerodynamic assistance it can provide to the rear wing in yaw.

Launching its car at Silverstone, the team also took the opportunity to shake it down on track, and during the afternoon Mercedes introduced a T-wing (inset), another solution aimed at changing the aerodynamic conditions that the rear wing undergoes.

The T-wing is an exploitation of regulations left over from various rewrites that have gone on since 2009. It is unclear at this stage if this is a solid solution from Mercedes or simply posturing from the team, an attempt to either draw Charlie Whiting's attention to the loophole or perform sleight of hand, getting the other teams to waste resources while drawing their attention away from something more significant.

Rear wing

There is nothing really radical about the rear wing as it incorporates the new shaping to the endplates required of the regulations and includes the various slots, strakes and open-ended style louvres [15] that the car ran in 2016. It does feature a mild spoon shaping to the mainplane though, which is clearly aimed at improving efficiency.

Diffuser

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 floor diffuser detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 floor diffuser detail

Photo by: XPB Images

As the diffuser starts 175cm ahead of the rear wheel centre line, this season you'd expect a steady rate of inclination from this point rearward, however, as we can see from this image the designers appear to have rapidly extruded upward creating two much larger channels, whilst the central section under the gearbox and crash structure is scalloped out.

You'll also note that the wastegate pipework has been compacted to fit around the exhaust and then flutes outward at the end of the pipework (arrowed). There are likely not only packaging advantages at play here but also performance gains.

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 diffuser detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 diffuser detail

Photo by: XPB Images

The outer diffuser channels also feature a significant outwash design (white arrow) as the team looks to influence how the diffuser interacts with other airflow structures.

The team has also followed the trend that Toro Rosso started of intersecting the exhaust pipe with the rear wing centre mounting pylon, not only improving structural rigidity but also manipulating the exhaust plume as it travels through the pipework.

Taking another leaf out of Toro Rosso's book, it has also created a conjoined lower wishbone at the rear of the car as it looks to maximise aerodynamic efficiency over the top of the diffuser.

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Mercedes AMG F1 W08 launch
Teams Mercedes
Author Matt Somerfield