Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Topic

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How Mercedes revived an old F1 suspension 'trick' to boost speed

There's been a great deal made about Mercedes' apparent Formula 1 straightline speed advantage when compared with its closest rival Red Bull.

How Mercedes revived an old F1 suspension 'trick' to boost speed

Described as a device to help lower the W12 at high speed, it's worth pointing out that the discussion actually centred on a well known suspension 'trick' that's been in operation in Formula 1 for a number of years, rather than a new device that's suddenly appeared on the car as it might have come across.

Furthermore, it's not just Mercedes that utilises this trick, as most of the grid uses this clever manipulation of the rear suspension in one form or another to lower the car in a non-linear way in order to 'stall' the floor and diffuser and reduce downforce and drag for a straightline speed boost.

That said, it's not something that's going to have the same effect for each team, given the variation in aerodynamic concepts up and down the grid, nor will it have the same benefit at every circuit, as the teams will have specific downforce packages for high, medium and low downforce circuits.

This means that while the non-linear movement of the rear suspension on the W12 seemed more obvious in Turkey, this was due to the team being able to run the car in a more specific manner, so as not to have the downforce reduced for the high-speed corners but 'stalling' the floor, diffuser and rear wing on the straights.

Given that the Circuit of the Americas has a very different high-speed layout to Istanbul Park, the same straightline speed boost couldn't be achieved by Mercedes, just as had been the case at several other races this season, and led to the top speed gap between the German squad and Red Bull being much narrower.

While Red Bull's concern regarding this straightline speed advantage has grown over the last few races, the team was also worried about the hidden consequences of Mercedes being able to run a higher downforce set-up and take the advantage this offers in the corners before shedding the additional drag it would ordinarily create on the straights.

Game-changer

The more interesting narrative of this story is that whilst Mercedes has been able to exploit this suspension trick for a number of years, it appears that the new regulations handicapped its use in the opening phase of the season.

The introduction of an upgrade package at the British Grand Prix appears to have been the catalyst for its renewed top speed advantage though.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The aerodynamic update (pictured above, described below), which centred on the car's midriff, appears to have made the car less of a handful and easier for the team to find the performance sweet spot of the car over a range of conditions, thus making it easier to tune this suspension 'trick' at different circuits too.

1. The forward vertical deflector was cut down, which in-turn allowed for the venetian blind-like slats to be extended forward

2. The main vertical deflector was also detached from the sidepod's leading edge wing, removing the arched section that had previously framed the sidepod's shoulder.

3-4. The 'wave' floor section which had been an imposing feature on the W12 since the start of the season was also tuned.

5. The single, more prominent floor scroll, was replaced by a pair of scrolls instead.

6-7. Eight angled fins were added, in order to course correct the airflow that moves around the sidepod.

Prior to this the team had largely been forced to trim its downforce levels not only to cater for the prevailing conditions and track characteristics but also as a means of keeping Red Bull within arms reach.

Other factors have had a bearing on the relative success of this non-linear suspension trick too, such as the new load and deflection test guidelines set out by the FIA for the rear wing introduced at the French Grand Prix.

This reduced the effectiveness of the flexi-wings that teams had been using as another method to boost their straightline speed performance. With the boundaries reset it upset the competitive order a little and required the teams to rethink their downforce levels for the given circuits.

No new tricks

Although the rear suspension trick in action created an interesting narrative, it's worth remembering that very little in Formula 1 is ever really new, with the same fundamental ideas re-appropriated in order to circumvent regulations that would otherwise erode their advantage.

After all, the current solution might have been used in this guise for several seasons to varying degrees of success, but only after the teams have found ways of retaining the effect following the FIA altering the regulations or banning FRIC which also sought to create a similar effect.

It's a trick that predates the modern interpretation on suspension too though, with Adrian Newey even citing the use of the same trick when Williams had active suspension back in the 90's.

"The other thing I noticed from the wind tunnel results was that at very low ride-heights the resulting stall of the diffuser reduced the drag of the car.

"So, we added a button to the steering wheel which, when pressed and held down, dropped the rear ride-height. The drivers used this where they were power, rather than grip-limited (generally in the straights). Effectively it was an early version of DRS".

shares
comments

Related video

F1 researching wet weather racing solutions after Spa rain chaos
Previous article

F1 researching wet weather racing solutions after Spa rain chaos

Next article

Why Stroll believes his “de-risked” Aston masterplan is feasible

Why Stroll believes his “de-risked” Aston masterplan is feasible
Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver Plus

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Many doubted Lewis Hamilton’s move from McLaren to Mercedes for the 2013 Formula 1 season. But the journey he’s been on since has taken the Briton to new heights - and to a further six world championship titles

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era Plus

Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

OPINION: With teams outside the top three having struggled in Formula 1 in recent seasons, the rules changes introduced in 2022 should have more of an impact this season. How well Haas does, as the poster child for the kind of team that F1 wanted to be able to challenge at the front, is crucial

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff Plus

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

OPINION: Although the central building blocks for Mercedes’ recent, long-lasting Formula 1 success were installed before he joined the team, Toto Wolff has been instrumental in ensuring it maximised its finally-realised potential after years of underachievement. The 10-year anniversary of Wolff joining Mercedes marks the perfect time to assess his work

Formula 1
Feb 1, 2023
The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate Plus

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Alpine’s signing of Pierre Gasly alongside Esteban Ocon revives memories of a famous all-French line-up, albeit in the red of Ferrari, for BEN EDWARDS. Can the former AlphaTauri man's arrival help the French team on its path back to winning ways in a tribute act to the Prancing Horse's title-winning 1983?

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021? Plus

How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021?

OPINION: A system to score all the grands prix from the past two seasons produces some interesting results and sets a standard that 2023 should surely exceed

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022? Plus

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who was the fastest driver in 2022? Everyone has an opinion, but what does the stopwatch say? Obviously, differing car performance has an effect on ultimate laptime – but it’s the relative speed of each car/driver package that’s fascinating and enlightening says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Formula 1
Jan 30, 2023
Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return Plus

Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

He has more starts without a podium than anyone else in Formula 1 world championship history, but Nico Hulkenberg is back for one more shot with Haas. After spending three years on the sidelines, the revitalised German is aiming to prove to his new team what the F1 grid has been missing

Formula 1
Jan 29, 2023
The potential-laden F1 car that Ferrari neglected Plus

The potential-laden F1 car that Ferrari neglected

The late Mauro Forghieri played a key role in Ferrari’s mid-1960s turnaround, says STUART CODLING, and his pretty, intricate 1512 was among the most evocative cars of the 1.5-litre era. But a victim of priorities as Formula 1 was deemed less lucrative than success in sportscars, its true potential was never seen in period

Formula 1
Jan 28, 2023