Why Mercedes is dropping its unique F1 front wing concept


Mercedes will ditch Formula 1's unique front wing concept introduced at the start of the season for good, with both drivers set to race the new design at the Canadian Grand Prix – although the old specification will be used for Friday's rain-affected practice.

Initially, the Mercedes W15 featured a front spoiler with the upper element hollowing out inward with a small carbon fiber strip connecting the cover to the nose to meet regulations.

In Monaco, George Russell raced the modified design with a more traditional top cover, which Lewis Hamilton would also run in Montreal for the first time. Both drivers ran the old spec on Friday likely to conserve parts.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin described it as a “step in the right direction” in Monaco, and technical director James Allison confirmed in Montreal that the original design was now consigned to history.

“Yes, that concept is now in the past,” Mercedes technical director James Allison said when asked by The Race if the old concept was gone for good.

“This allowed us to create a break in the wing that the rules would have expected to be relatively continuous. This break allowed a little force to be injected downstream of the front wing.

“By the time the car was rebalanced, we had more downforce with that wing than we were competing with at the time.

“But give us a few more weeks and a little more effort, and we ended up being a better candidate.”

Allison refuted suggestions that Mercedes had squandered the potential gains of innovation it prided itself on, saying: “In this case, it's not a trade, it's a win-win.

“The feature that gave us more balanced downforce on the old wing is better on this wing.

“Over time you find better things and what you thought was cool isn't cool anymore. This suite is a better suite than the old one.”

Along with the larger brake ducts in Montreal, Mercedes announced the realignment of the front suspension arm housing to improve airflow under the car.

But Allison dismissed this as a significant change for Montreal.

“I think so [change] “For Monaco, we returned the steering lever to its normal length,” Allison added.

“There are no significant changes pending.”

So, what exactly was Merck working on during this process? The priority for the Mercedes W15 was to address the rear instability in faster corners that had plagued its predecessors. While adding aero load towards the rear is the obvious way to address this, as is often the case, it creates balance problems in other conditions.

To understand why, Allison explains one of the fundamental challenges of these cars and how the front wing works.

“All these cars like to be close to the ground, and that's why all the cars are close to the ground,” Allison said. “The front wings on these cars are very large and they probably prefer to be closer to the ground than anything else.

“That tends to make the car more nervous when you're going faster, because proportionately, you're moving more to the front axle than you might want to. So you combat that with these rules.”

“The closer you find downforce to the ground, the worse it gets. So, everyone in 2022, when these rules were first published, were not as close to reality as they are now, and they weren't fighting this ingrained behavior as much as they are now. And that helps Just in that.

Hence, one of the contributing factors to the instability of the front end last year was the front wing working so hard in the ground impact and gaining load at such high speed that the rear end didn't have the aero grip to match.

This year's front wing concept helped provide more active airflow to the floor on either side of the nose, and thus helped increase the load aft. However, Mercedes lacked front-end load in slow corners – hence Hamilton's recent complaint that “the slower you go, the less the car wants to corner”.

Therefore, after prioritizing adding rear downforce, as is often the case, this led to other weaknesses. Hence, Mercedes switched to a more traditional top cover to add load.

As part of this wing change, the lower edge of the wing has also become more uniform, perhaps as a way to ensure the ground effect of the front wing is contained at high speed and avoid a reoccurrence of the problem.

This would likely allow the entire vehicle to lower slightly without having problems with overloading when too close to the ground. As Allison says, “This car produces less lift when it's closer to the ground than the old car – when it's going faster, that's what you want.”

Allison also admitted when asked that a certain degree of controlled flexibility can help “combat the ingrained behavior I just described.”

Despite the ban on flexible bodywork, none of them can be quite as strict, perhaps this indicates some progress in understanding this result that other teams have previously achieved, although what he said was by no means an explicit confirmation of this the truth.

It's not a revolution for Mercedes, but it is another step in what is now described as a more natural evolution rather than what team principal Toto Wolff described as “meandering”.

If it goes as expected, as Mercedes was given the opportunity to run the new package on a more traditional Monaco circuit two weeks ago – with that great aerodynamic test coming after Barcelona – it will help prove it is in good stead. The latter is on the right track.

What every other team brought

Mark Hughes

Red Bull

A reshaped main rear spoiler specifically designed for the ideal drag/downforce trade-off for this track. Larger front brake ducts to take into account heavy braking use around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Aston Martin

A different twisting geometry for the rear beam wing, providing more loading towards the outer ends, helps energize the main wing across most of its width.

Williams

A new rear pull bar is lighter than the old one as part of Williams' ongoing weight reduction programme. It also has a wider ride height adjustment range than the old model.

lord

A more efficient version of the previous low-drag wing and a front wing with a shorter chord length to more easily balance the car around the low-drag rear wing.

Sauber

The low-drag version of the single-pillar rear wing introduced at the last race, coupled with a low-drag beam spoiler.

Haas

A low-camber front spoiler is available if necessary to balance the car around the low-drag rear wing.

No upgrades reported = Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine



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