Friday, 24 February 2012

Mercedes W03 Is More Than Just An Ugly Face

2012 Mercedes-AMG W03
Mercedes GP are the last front-line Formula 1 team to unveil their new 2012 challenger (leaving Marussia and HRT to cobble something together), even having to take last year's car to the Jerez test a couple of weeks ago "to get tyre data". Well, now the W03 is finally ready, and apparently it's late because the best has been saved until last. The best tech, perhaps, but not the best nose - I think that's the biggest step I've seen so far, and with Marussia (formerly Virgin Racing, but I guess they had sex or something) closely following what McLaren are doing, as they share development facilities, it could retain that title. But what else has been tucked into the new Silver Arrow?

Red Bull aero wizard Adrian Newey said at Jerez that the most likely reason Mercedes GP (now called "Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team", which is a mouthful) waited so long to unveil the new car is because they had something special on it, and it appears this could be accurate, as even at Cataluña this week they have been very secretive, putting up boards in front of the garage between runs, particularly wary of the front and rear ends. Clearly they don't want to be copied...

Two things are supposedly going on here, one at each end. At the front there is reportedly a "W-Duct" system, wherein air enters the tiny little hole in the nose cone and is distributed in a W-formation across the front wing, using tiny channels in the wing supports and four holes either side that aren't that different to the ones on the C-Class's taillights, which do the same thing. When the car goes around a corner, the air flows from one side to the other, improving balance and handling at the front end. Because there are no moving parts, it's not active aerodynamics and is therefore within the rules, which makes it very clever indeed.

At the other end, there's supposedly a legal version of the Double Diffuser that powered the Brawn GP car to victory three years ago. Instead of an actual double diffuser, air is channelled through holes in the engine cover towards the diffuser. This system apparently also involved the redirection of exhaust gases, although like all teams following the blown diffuser ban, the exhaust pipes are sitting on top of the side pods, so again, I'm not entirely sure how this works. Whether it will see them onto the podium, we won't find out until race one at Australia on the 15-16th March, which, out of principle, I will be watching on the BBC despite having a Sky HD box. So there.

Meanwhile in testing, the lap times have been all over the place, as you would expect - they're not qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix here, they're all running different test programmes. Sebastian Vettel was keen to be on top at the end of day one, but day two saw Nico Hülkenberg atop the leaderboard in his new position as a Force India driver, and yesterday, Pastor Maldonado of all people went the fastest in the Williams-Renault FW34. The Williams team were the fastest in testing a year ago, and went on to have their worst ever season, so there's really not much we can garner from the testing session until the last day of the last session, which is on the 4th March, as then I suspect at least the top three or four teams will want to look like they're the fastest after all.

Lotus are having to miss out this week's test session, as one damaged chassis has lead to them making changes on both cars, as they feel it's in their best interest to change the part that broke, based on the data it provided. However, they made an excellent impression in Jerez a fortnight ago, so when they return on 1st March, they'll be one to watch, I reckon, as will Mercedes, whose innovative new features have the potential to make the two-way battle between McLaren and Red Bull to be a thing of the past.

Live text commentary is available on Autosport Live, and will finish at 16:00. Stay tuned, folks......

Source: WorldCarFans (W-Duct) (double-diffuser) (Marussia's low nose)

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