Photos by Mercedes-Benz
Just 12 weeks after the last checkered flag fell in the 1 Formula 2020 season, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team officially presented its racing car for the 2021 season. The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance was presented today in the brand new Race Bays in our technology center in Brackley. In this context, the top-of-the-range facility, which has been built over the past 18 months, was officially opened. The works resembled a beehive over the winter. The team members looked for new solutions, possibilities and improvements on their hunt for more performance. Long days, long nights, tough decisions and tense deadlines: Thanks to the joint efforts of all team members, we were able to ensure that the W12 is ready to hit the racetrack on time.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1: W12 (2021)
"We realign our focus every year and define the right goals," said Toto Wolff. “That may sound easy, but it's damn difficult and probably the reason why there are no other sports teams with seven consecutive World Cup titles. So much can happen and it would be natural to get used to success and therefore not fight so hard for it. "
“But this team hasn't shown a single sign of it. I still see the same fire, hunger and passion as I did in 2013 when I walked through the aisles of the factory for the first time. Every season is a new challenge and brings with it a new goal that we want to achieve. The 2021 season brings changes to the regulations that could affect our competitiveness. At the same time, the budget ceiling comes into force and we have to work on the major rule break for 2022. These challenges spur us on. "
Name: Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance
The team's 2021 race car is called Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance and is our first car to be named "E PERFORMANCE". We are thus expressing the future closer cooperation with the Mercedes-AMG performance department. "E PERFORMANCE" is the new technology name that will be used in the product names and badges of all future performance hybrid vehicles from Mercedes-AMG. These will include technology from Formula 1, in particular the work of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth.
The team's closer collaboration with AMG is also reflected in the new paintwork for the 2021 season. In this context, the AMG branding replaces the star pattern on the engine cover, on which the black base paint, which we used for the first time in 2020, now changes into the traditional racing silver. The most prominent color remains the iconic green of title partner PETRONAS on the front and rear wings, the nose, the rear-view mirrors and the halo. On the sides of the vehicle there are parallel green and silver stripes, with which we symbolize the partnership between Mercedes and PETRONAS that has been going on for over a decade. The visual identity is completed by the burgundy red of the team owner and principal partner INEOS, which can be seen on the airbox and on the inside of the front wing end plates. The result is a distinctive and unmistakable look for the new season.
INEOS as an investor from 2021
After the announcement of the new shareholding at the end of last year, an exciting new chapter begins for the team this season, in which Toto, Daimler and INEOS are equal shareholders, each with a stake of one third.
"The fact that we have INEOS as an investor shows that we have a strong business case and that F1 continues to be a highly attractive platform for big brands and companies," said Toto. "We are also seeing a slight change in the way F1 teams work, as the budget cap and the new structure are moving towards a business model that is more similar to an American sports franchise."
“At the same time, three strong partners give the team more stability for the future. Personally, I like to commit myself to the team in the long term and increase my share of it slightly. I've always said that this team is like family to me and I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved together. "
Significant aerodynamic changes for 2021
The greatest challenge in the development of the 2021 F1 cars was the adaptation to the new aerodynamics regulations, which entail several radical changes in key performance areas of the vehicle.
“If you want to slow down a car, which is the real point behind rule changes, then underbody modifications are the easiest and cheapest way to get there,” said James Allison. “The underbody is such an important component of aerodynamics that even small geometrical changes result in major reductions in performance. After the rules were decided, it was our job to find out how we could win back the losses from the rule changes. "
This posed a significant challenge for our designers, as they had to try to regain the performance that the rule changes had lost. The four most important modifications to the underbody are:
- A triangular cutout on the underbody in front of the rear wheels.
- A reduction in the size of the winglets on the rear brake ventilation by a few centimeters.
- A shortening of the two baffles on the diffuser that are closest to the center of the vehicle.
- Closing the slots in the sub-floor in the area of the bargeboards.
The aerodynamic changes were a key area in the development of the W12, however some of the parts on our new car are identical to those on the W11. The reason for this is that the rules prescribe the adoption of some components. This in some ways reduced the workload on our new car, but this fact also brought its own new challenges and difficulties with it.
“What is and what is not adopted will vary from team to team,” explains James Allison. “The rules freeze a large part of the car, but give each team the option of using two tokens (like tokens) to make changes to the car. The tokens include a shopping list that reveals how many tokens must be used for a specific change. What the teams use their tokens for was completely up to them. "
“There are also some vehicle parts that can be changed without using tokens, for example the power unit, the cooling systems, the suspension and of course all aerodynamic surfaces. We have used up our tokens, but we are not yet revealing what it is for. That will become clear in time. Once the races start again, pretty much everything under the car fairing will be frozen for the rest of the year. With the express permission of the FIA, you can make changes for reliability reasons or to reduce costs, but if a part of the car doesn't work well, you have to live with it for the rest of the season. "
The considerable changes to the aerodynamics of the underbody and the adaptation to the new rules for taking over parts kept the team busy over the winter, but there are also opportunities for improvement in many areas of the car. Our engineers have worked tirelessly to take a leap forward with the new car.
"The rest of the aerodynamic work followed the usual pattern of looking for aerodynamic improvement in every square inch of the car," added James. "Particular attention was paid to finding areas where we could use additional weight for more sophisticated aerodynamic geometries."
“In the 2021 season, the cars can be 6 kg heavier and we have a few extra kilos available due to the DAS ban. In addition, the takeover rules mean that we have to find ways to make some parts more durable so that we don't have to replace or buy them so often. "
This year there are new regulations for aerodynamic tests (ATR). In this context, the permitted wind tunnel and CFD hours will be reduced. There is also a kind of handicap whereby teams have more or less access to these aerodynamic tools based on their World Cup position. For this reason, as the reigning constructors 'world champion, we will receive 22% less access to it this year than the last placed in the 2020 constructors' championship.
“We have always tried to get the most out of every wind tunnel test and CFD session. But nothing drives you to be more productive and efficient than introducing such a new constraint, ”said James. "We are determined to find better ways of working so that we can offset the effects of this handicap."
Pirelli is bringing new, more durable tires this season, which the teams tested in Portimão, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi last year. None of the teams has much experience with it and before the start of the season they only have three winter test days. Accordingly, it depends on every lap to get used to the new tires.
"The tires are a bit slower, a trade off for durability, but they are consistent and should allow us to race smoothly," said James. “However, they will be an interesting factor in competitiveness this year. Whenever the tires change, it depends on which team finds the sweet spot faster where the new rubbers deliver their best performance. "
These different elements add up to a considerable challenge in the 2021 season and make it more than just a “year of transition”. But while we are close to the start of the 2021 season, a group is already working on the extensive rule changes for 2022.
"It would be great if you had a car that was so incredibly fast that you could leave it behind and focus on the successor," said James. “But it's never that easy in Formula 1. The 2021 season will inevitably divert our attention from the seismic changes in the new regulations for 2022. "
“The whole year will be a tightrope walk, on the one hand to do enough to be competitive in 2021, but on the other hand to work as much as possible on 2022. The eternal challenge of Formula 1 follows the principle: Better to have a sparrow in hand than a pigeon on the roof. Implementing this in view of the budget ceiling and the completely new technical regulations for 2022 will be a challenge like none before. "
Look for an advantage in the Power Unit
When developing the new M12 Power Unit, Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains tried to find every possible improvement in order to make progress on the first exit of all eight cars in which it will be used this season.
“This year we are going into the eighth season under relatively stable regulations. Accordingly, we have a good understanding of the current hybrid engines, ”said Hywel Thomas. “Our new product is a typical Mercedes-AMG Power Unit, but we have worked hard to take the next step in development. A stable regulation means that it is becoming more and more difficult to get additional performance. That's why you need a targeted approach. "
“We identified three main areas that we were working on. First, we continued developing the technology in the Power Unit. It is an ongoing process and we feel we have made progress in this area this year. The second point is reliability. We saw a few design issues over the past year that we have worked on to address them with some tweaks. At the same time, we also have some completely new innovations that will be used for the first time in a racing PU. That was a challenge above all because last season ended very late and the winter break was shorter than usual. Because of this, we had less time to prepare, which put us under additional pressure. "
The hunt for every ounce of performance for the power unit has been intensified by the rule changes for the 2021 season, because only a single performance specification is allowed. Up to now, upgrades have been allowed to be introduced at different times during the season.
At the same time, production costs increased as another customer team, McLaren, was added, which has presented the team in Brixworth with an exciting new challenge in recent months. For the first time since the end of the 2014 season, McLaren competes with Mercedes power again this year.
"A third customer team is putting more pressure on our company," said Hywel. “We have to bring more engines to the winter tests and we have to bring more engines to the first race. But we don't want to freeze our designs earlier than that. This puts additional strain on our internal and external supply chains and our assembly and test team so that we can work on the design for as long as possible. In the same breath, however, we also get another group of chassis designers who take a look at our PU, discover how it works, how it is integrated into the car and how it works with the rest of the package. We can take all of these statements and ideas into account for this and all following seasons. "
In the past year, a number of restrictions were introduced for the development of the power units. This was a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why HPP had to work with a reduction in test bench hours for the first time this winter. The same applies to the introduction of just one PU performance specification.
“It's similar to the wind tunnel restrictions that have been in place for a number of years. But we had to implement the test bench restrictions immediately, ”said Hywel. "That's why we have to decide earlier on which projects to concentrate on, because we can't afford to spend valuable hours on the test bench on ideas that don't make it into the car."
Meanwhile, HPP is already working on the considerable modifications that the regulations will bring with it for 2022. Although the changes to the power unit are not as revolutionary as on the chassis side, there is still a lot to be done. This is especially true in view of the balancing act between the demands of the current season and the preparations for 2022. A huge challenge for everyone involved in Brixworth.
"From 2022, the F1 engines will run on E10 fuel, ie fuels that contain 10 percent sustainably produced ethanol," said Hywel. “That may not sound like a radical change, but it changes the combustion process significantly. Accordingly, there is a lot of development work to be done. There are also some changes to do with the ERS components. "
“The biggest changes for 2022 are of course on the chassis side, they are massive. That also has a big impact on us in Brixworth, because we have to build the PU into a completely new chassis. For this reason there will be some changes to the way the PU is attached. The more insight the chassis engineers get to understand what they need to make the car faster, and the more they know how to place all of the systems within the chassis, the clearer the impact on the PU will become. "
“We had already started working on it, as the regulations were originally supposed to be introduced this year, but the challenge is only just beginning now. We are working flat out to optimize the PU for this significant new regulation. This year, our ability to find “winners”, ideas that have the potential to give us an advantage, will be crucial. "
Working under the budget ceiling
Perhaps the team’s biggest challenge this season will be working under the new budget cap. The budgets of all Formula 1 teams may not exceed US $ 2021 million in 145. That took a lot of work behind the scenes to adapt to these new constraints. At the same time, it made the team adapt its organization, for example by creating the Applied Science Department, our high-tech engineering department.
"We had to change the structure of the team, the way we work together, we had to optimize our processes and become more efficient," said Toto. “And we are firmly convinced that the more efficiently we work, the more performance gains we will see on the racetrack. It had a huge impact, but it also gave us a chance to rethink our company. That is why we founded our Applied Science department in order to bring F1 know-how to many different customers in this way. The department will play an important role in our company. "
From a technical point of view, the budget cap means that we have to be careful with our resources throughout the year. We also need to ensure that every dollar spent under budget is used as effectively as possible. The parts takeover rules have cushioned the impact on this year's car, but the longer the year goes and the more we turn our attention towards 2022, the more we will feel the constraints of the budget cap.
"We're going to try to keep the car developing at a pace to learn how to keep making it faster," added James. “We'll have to wait longer to pull the improvements together into larger development steps before we spend the money to make the parts. This is the only way we can ensure that we don't run out of development budget early in the season. "
Focus on diversity, inclusion and sustainability
Last season we started with a black base coat to publicly advocate more diversity and integration within our team and our sport. That was the beginning of a long road on which we have taken the first steps in the past few months. However, there is still a lot to do during this season and beyond.
The black base paint will also remain in the 2021 season as a sign of the team's undiminished commitment to greater diversity and integration. At the start we launched projects such as our partnership with the Mulberry Schools Trust, the development of our "Accelerate 25" program and the establishment of a joint foundation with Lewis.
"We started training our recruiters to raise awareness of unconscious biases, and all of our executives have completed our Inclusive Excellence program," said Toto. “At the same time, we have set ourselves the goal that in the next five years at least 25 percent of all newcomers should come from underrepresented groups. The latest move is the joint foundation that we established with Lewis to improve all aspects of diversity in motorsport. "
“All of these actions are encouraging, but we know that real changes will take time and we are only at the beginning of a very long road. This topic will therefore remain in our focus in the coming years, then we will build on the foundation that we have laid in the past months. "
We also focus on making the team more sustainable. Our plants have been working climate-neutrally since 2020 and we were only the second F1 team to be awarded the FIA three-star environmental seal of approval.
“We will continue our sustainability projects unabated in 2021. Our goal is to increase our CO2- Reduce our footprint by 2022 percent by 2018 compared to 50, "said Toto. “We also put a lot of work into developing sustainable fuels for the future, especially in Brixworth, of course. Together with our title partner PETRONAS, we are working on the first steps towards sustainable fuels, which will take place with the introduction of the E10 fuel for the 2022 season. But all power unit manufacturers always think about the goal of a 100 percent sustainable fuel in the long term. This is a very interesting challenge that we are facing. "
Stable driver pairing for the fifth year in a row
While the world around us and the environment in which we work are constantly changing, the team is relying on consistency in the driver pairing in the 2021 season: Lewis and Valtteri are going into their fifth season together as teammates. Both are eager to get back into the cockpit after an intensive training program during the winter break.
“New car presentation day is always very exciting,” said Lewis. “It's fantastic to show the world the result of all the hard work in the factories and to meet some of my teammates in person, which has rarely happened over the past year. I was also in contact with my engineers over the winter, found out about their preparations and prepared myself for the upcoming season. The tension continues to rise and now I can hardly wait to take the W12 out onto the track. "
“Last year we didn't have many opportunities to come to the factory, so I'm really happy to finally be back here and see the new car in person for the first time,” said Valtteri. “I was regularly kept up to date on the progress, but it's nice to see the end result in person now. That inspires me even more for the new season. The cars are similar to last year, but there are some interesting changes to the aerodynamics that will have an impact on handling and performance. Now I'm looking forward to finding out in Bahrain what the car feels like on the track. "
"I believe that our consistency within the team over the past few years has been an important strength and a great advantage," said Toto about the team's driver pairing for 2021. "We have seen over the past few seasons that this driver pairing is very good for us works. We have two incredibly strong drivers who also have a very professional working relationship. Both are hungry and excited to see racing again soon. We look forward to finally seeing them drive our new car for the first time in a few weeks. "
At the same time, we have a strong duo of reserve drivers for the 2021 season: Stoffel Vandoorne is returning in this role alongside his Mercedes Formula E team-mate Nyck de Vries.
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The W12, the 2021 racing car of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team!
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