What Mercedes did and didn't tell us about its new W12 F1 car

Mercedes has dominated the Formula 1 landscape for the last seven years, producing one monster of a machine after another, which makes the W12 the most important car in the busy launch cycle as it’s the benchmark for others to measure themselves by.

What Mercedes did and didn't tell us about its new W12 F1 car

The W12, like all of the 2021 challengers, is a substantial carryover from last year's double championship-winning car.

With two development tokens at its disposal, this is an opportunity to rethink areas of the car that are affected by the new regulations and renovate the car’s bodywork.

Mercedes presentation left us with just as many questions as it did answers, as there was no mention of where the team has spent its tokens and the floor had been covered to prevent the other teams being able to decipher its intent.

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However, the W12 is chocked full of new and reworked solutions that are worthy of our attention, so let’s investigate what’s new on the Mercedes menu…

Appetizers

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 front details

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 front details

Photo by: Daimler AG

The front wing is pretty much a carryover from 2020 but it’s still worth noting how far the endplate is lent over as the team looks to get as much airflow as possible moving across and around the front tyre (blue arrow).

The front brake ducts have been enlarged quite significantly for 2021, with their overall width increased and L-shape design from last season inverted (red arrow). This is indicative of the team’s desire to push more airflow out wide of the car, with the airflow collected by this inlet serving a predominantly aerodynamic function.

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 brake disc

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 brake disc

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This is assisted by the design of the entire brake assembly, which dispenses the airflow collected by the inlet out of the wheel face via various methods.

Further down the car we have the usual modifications made to the area ahead of the sidepods, with a revised height to the forward-most element in the bargeboard cluster (blue arrow, below), while the rest of the cluster has morphed incrementally according to the car’s new aerodynamic leanings.

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 bargeboards and deflectors

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 bargeboards and deflectors

Photo by: Daimler AG

The sidepod deflector’s main element now appears to be fixed to the floor once more, as the team has had to totally rethink that region in order to accommodate the new regulations which forbid fully-enclosed holes in the floor.

In the render released by the team there’s a small canard mounted on the chassis behind the rear leg of the upper wishbone (red arrow) that wasn’t present on the physical car - a novelty we’ve seen from the Mercedes dual launch approach in the past.

This canard will add some marginal assistance to the aerodynamic work done by the wishbone ahead of it, with designers taking every care to influence the airflow in ways that improve the global performance of the car.

The Main Course

Mercedes AMG F1 W12

Mercedes AMG F1 W12

Photo by: Daimler AG

The W12 represents another step forward for Mercedes when it comes to the design of its sidepods and engine cover, with the bodywork drawn in to hug its every sinew and leaving behind what James Allison described as a “sexy bulge” midway along the engine cover.

This bodywork blister, as I prefer to call it, seems to confirm whispers that had been heard in regard to HPP introducing a new inlet arrangement for the latest power unit incarnation, as the bodywork clings to the new Mercedes-AMG F1 M12 E Performance unit in a very specific way in this region.

This is not the only transformation that the power unit has undergone, as in its quest for improved thermal efficiency a new turbocharger design has been introduced, while issues with the engine block’s aluminium structure last season has seen a switch to a new alloy this season.

Work has also been undertaken to improve the resilience of the Energy Recovery System due to the 23-race calendar, with special emphasis placed on the manufacturing process of the MGU-K given the frequency of failures last season.

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Mercedes AMG F1 W12 rear end

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 rear end

Photo by: Daimler AG

Ferrari SF71H floor channels

Ferrari SF71H floor channels

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The overall shape of the sidepods follow a general trend that teams have been taking that creates a ramped section in the midriff and allows airflow to cascade down off the bodywork onto the floor before making its way into the coke-bottle region. On the W12, this is aided by the high-waisted cooling outlets that are also widely populating the grid but have been made exceptionally tight in Mercedes case, with more blister-like contouring near the cars centreline and a large swage line apparent on the cooling outlets upper surface to help extract even more aerodynamic performance.

However, where it gets particularly interesting is in the design of the floor section beneath, as Mercedes appear to have a trench-like arrangement that expands that section and encourages the airflow to follow its contours into the more expansive coke-bottle region of the car (red arrow). It’s an idea we’ve seen before, with Ferrari its most recent protagonist having returned to using a similar solution last season.

And for Dessert…

Mercedes W12 wing mirror mounts

Mercedes W12 wing mirror mounts

Photo by: Mercedes AMG

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 halo fin

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 halo fin

Photo by: Daimler AG

There are always a few small treats littered around a Mercedes car that whet the appetite, one of which we were treated to when the team released a video of Valtteri Bottas at his seat fit. It showed a new mirror mount that features a serrated finish that will have a small but beneficial influence on the airflow that passes by.

The images seen of the W12 in the meantime also reveal that the team has paid attention to the area beside the halo, adding a small fin that helps redirect the airflow en route to the sidepods.

Time for the tip...

In summary, the W12 looks to be a tidy reworking of a classic, with the team already revealing several interesting new design cues while keeping some of their more important decisions close to its chest. After all, they don’t want to give rivals a headstart on understanding them and rushing out similar solutions on their cars in time for the first race of the season.

It will be be interesting to discover where Mercedes decided to spend its token allocation, as there’s no discernible difference on the car to account for them at this point. If I were a betting man – which I am – I’d expect Merc to wheel out a new nose in the not-so-distant future...

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Series Formula 1
Teams Mercedes
Author Matt Somerfield
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