Mercedes say they expect the new W11 to be ‘the fastest Mercedes race car ever built’ as they explain the changes they’ve made from 2019.
Mercedes say they’ve pulled out all the stops to eke out every bit of performance from the current regulations for their new W11.
The German team launch their new W11 at Silverstone on Friday, a further evolution of the successful W10 from 2019. It’s the final year of the current regulations before huge technical changes in 2021, meaning the end of the current development cycle. As a result, Mercedes think they’ve changed some concepts on their car in order to give a higher ceiling for development throughout 2020. They say the vast majority of over 10,000 components have changed since 2019, and expect the W11 to become ‘the fastest Mercedes race car ever built’.
“The regulations stayed largely the same for the new year, so for us it was all about trying to make sure that we don’t run out of development steam on a package that worked pretty well for us last year,” said James Allison, Technical Director at Mercedes.
“We wanted to change aspects of the concept of the car – aspects that would be completely impossible to change within a season – to give us a more fertile platform for the new season. We tried to make a few well-chosen architectural changes to keep the development slope strong even though the regulations are now a little bit longer in the tooth.”
“At the front we have accepted more structural complexity around the uprights and wheel rims in order to provide a higher performance assembly overall,” continued James.
“In the middle of the car we have followed the pitlane trend by moving our upper side impact tube to the lower position and banking the aerodynamic gain that comes with this layout. At the rear of the car we have gone for an adventurous suspension layout in order to free up aerodynamic development opportunity. All three investments were improvements in their own right, but their real effect is to mobilise a raft of secondary aerodynamic gains both during the winter and, we hope, across the season to come.”
Mercedes say that, unlike last year, the spec of the car run for the Silverstone shakedown won’t be significantly different to what they race with throughout the year.
“We will still have upgrades for Melbourne that will come in the second week of testing, but the ‘entire new car’ approach of 2019 won’t feature,” explained Allison. “Last year, the regulations were changed quite significantly, and they were decided quite late in the year. Under those circumstances, doing a launch car and a week two car gave us the chance to build the maximum amount of learning into our Melbourne car. With the regulations being more mature this year and with the opening stab of the 2020 development already being at the same level as the finish of last year’s car, repeating last year’s approach would not make sense.”
Engine department focused on Mercedes cooling issues
Mercedes struggled with unlocking their outright power throughout 2019, due to problems with cooling the engine in the W10. As a result, this was a key area of focus over the winter break. Larger radiators have been fitted to the W11, and the engine has been proven at higher operating temperatures than last year’s. Andy Cowell from Merc’s engine department explained: “We are putting significant effort into making sure that all the cooling fluids on the Power Unit operate at a higher temperature.”
“This increases the temperature difference between that coolant fluid and the ambient temperature that we are racing in, which increases the effectiveness of the cooling system. That’s a tough challenge though, because large parts of the engine are made from aluminium and the temperatures that we are operating at mean the material properties are decaying quite rapidly. Managing that over an eight-race distance Power Unit cycle is a tough engineering challenge but that’s what we are striving for. As Power Unit engineers we don’t just focus on crankshaft power, we also focus a tremendous amount on the packaging and reducing the overheads for the aerodynamicist, so that they can mainly focus on keeping the car planted through the corner.”
As Head of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, Cowell said the stable engine regulations meant having to analyse every single area of the power unit.
“We have had to develop an even wider area of the PU. We have looked at every single system. We have worked on a huge array of projects, and when summed together they will hopefully help propel the car around the track quicker and give the aerodynamics team more opportunities to improve as well.”
With F1’s hybrid engines reaching their seventh year of largely unchanged regulations, Cowell says ‘there’s no such thing as perfection’ as the engines have now reach over 50% thermal efficiency – an improvement from 44% in 2014. This efficiency means that more than half of the energy supplied by the fuel is used to propel the car – Merc say the average road car engine is around 30%.
“There is always the opportunity to improve and all of us have that mindset,” continued Cowell. “We’re always improving every detail – the materials, the hardware and ingredients, but also things like our design tools. You know there are areas where you can get better. Being self-critical and keeping an open mind is at the core of that mindset.”