How Mercedes turned the tables on Ferrari in F1 2018 tech battle

Mercedes has gone from fighting a rearguard action against a faster Ferrari to take charge of the 2018 Formula 1 season. These technical changes have been key to that swing

How Mercedes turned the tables on Ferrari in F1 2018 tech battle

Understanding, unlocking and managing tyre performance has always been an artform in modern Formula 1 and can often make a big difference in the performance between teams.

It's a topic that's been central to Mercedes quest for improvement ever since it revived its works team for 2010.

The current champion squad has been through phases of struggling hugely with rear-tyre overheating, but also spells of being completely in command of tyre management.

Even during its dominant recent spell it has particularly struggled to stay on top of the tyre situation at slower street circuits - with its design concept better able to stretch its legs at high-speed medium downforce venues.

Knowing that there was an area of weakness that needed addressing, Mercedes has focused a lot of effort on tyre management, and and judging by its success in Singapore and Russia it has succeeded.

As has been discussed before, the introduction of the finned rear wheel design at Spa, coupled with a new rear brake drum design, plus a change in mindset on how to set up and operate its suspension has turned the W09 into a great all-round machine, knocking Ferrari's SF71H off a perch it had seemed to occupy.

But Mercedes' development appetite in other areas of the car has not stopped either - as the team further optimised its front wing package for Sochi, along with a revised rear wing support pillar layout.

The front wing had clear changes in the area alongside the endplate, which is interesting given both alterations have an impact on the amount and strength of outwash being generated.

It's altogether plausible that Mercedes encountered these gains while studying the reduced outwash effect that will be possible due to the regulation change next season.

The front wing's main cascade element, which was previously stood adrift of the endplate, now lines up against it, but in a higher position. A pair of canards can be found in behind, exploiting any flow that can be picked up from under the raised cascade position.

The slots found in the outer 100mm of floor have become an area where teams have made the most changes and gains this season, and Mercedes' latest update resulted in the forwardmost slot being reworked.

The slot in the sidepod deflector bodywork has been adjusted as a consequence too, in order to fulfil the necessary regulatory obligation.

The Russian GP also set the stage for tests of a new Mercedes rear wing, which utilises a pair of supports rather than just one that intersects the exhaust pipe.

It's a design choice that its closest rivals have utilised all season and also features the swan-neck style upper connections to the mainplane, which improves flow to the underside of the wing.

Mounted between the two pillars, which are much thinner than their single predecessor, is a new winglet, used to manipulate the direction of the surrounding airflow, shaping the exhaust plume, which would hopefully yield yet more performance.

The team chose not to race the design in the end though, instead opting for its lower downforce spoon shaped rear wing with the plainer, more complementary endplates.

Something that was retained was a change in position for the oil breather pipework, now sited alongside the crash structure and exiting just beneath the main exhaust outlet.

This might not seem like a considerable change at first glance but it could be Mercedes' first salvo in addressing an issue caused by a need to vent oil vapour generated by the engine to the atmosphere.

Ferrari-powered teams have been venting their oil vapour through pipework that exits out of the crash structure, above the rain light, all season.

While that may seem innocuous at first sight, F1 teams do not do things for no reason. In fact it's a relatively old trick, one that predates the type of PCV systems we have on road cars, whereby a 'road draft tube' would be placed in the car's slipstream in order to pull the gases out of the crankcase.

If we use this logic to explain the pipe's use on the Ferrari powered cars and Mercedes W09, we can see that they are respectively using the diffuser and exhaust to take the gases from the pipework, thereby improving power unit efficiency.

shares
comments
Charlie Whiting: Zandvoort would need minimal change for F1 GP

Previous article

Charlie Whiting: Zandvoort would need minimal change for F1 GP

Next article

Ferrari Formula 1 team to run new livery from Japanese Grand Prix

Ferrari Formula 1 team to run new livery from Japanese Grand Prix
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes
Author Giorgio Piola
Why Bottas feels the time has come to be “more selfish” Plus

Why Bottas feels the time has come to be “more selfish”

We’ve seen five distinct versions of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes as he’s tried to fulfil his own ambitions while being a consummate team player – two difficult, competing missions which have been challenging to reconcile. Speaking exclusively to STUART CODLING, Bottas explains his highs and lows… and why he still believes he can be world champion

Formula 1
May 15, 2021
Does Aston have a case in F1 2021’s big technical row? Plus

Does Aston have a case in F1 2021’s big technical row?

Aston Martin claims Formula 1’s latest technical tweaks have cost it competitiveness – and that it’s the innocent victim of a regulatory stitch-up aimed at pegging back Mercedes. But is any of this actually true? It depends on who you ask, says STUART CODLING

Formula 1
May 14, 2021
How long can F1 2021's brewing title battle stay clean? Plus

How long can F1 2021's brewing title battle stay clean?

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have been evenly matched so far in the 2021 Formula 1 title race. Neither has been afraid to get aggressive against each other on track, teeing up an enthralling contest as the year unwinds. But is their rivalry destined to end in broken shards of carbon fibre?

Formula 1
May 13, 2021
What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight Plus

What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight

OPINION: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have recovered from their pre-season woes to take three wins from the opening four races of 2021. But each time Red Bull and Max Verstappen have pushed them hard. So, what clues did the latest round of that battle – the Spanish Grand Prix – tease about the next stage of the season?

Formula 1
May 12, 2021
How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Plus

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Plus

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Plus

How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021