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Formula 1 Monaco GP

The hidden details behind Mercedes’ upgraded W14 F1 car

The scale of the changes made by Mercedes for its Monaco Grand Prix upgrade of the W14 Formula 1 car was impressive.

Mercedes W14 front suspension detail

And while the big-ticket items, such as the sidepods and front suspension, were obvious talking points, there were also some interesting detail changes that emerged too.  

In terms of the new front suspension arrangement, the main change came to the pickup position at the chassis end on the lead arm of the upper wishbone.

The arm is now mounted on the top corner of the chassis, rather than the 10 or so centimetres below that line it could be found before. Obviously, this will have some impact on the mechanical performance of the front suspension and the vehicle’s dynamics as a whole.

But there’s also clearly some aerodynamic advantages to be found too, as the arm now falls more in line with the angle of the other elements, which are all being used to guide the airflow down and around the sidepods.

Mercedes W14 front detail

Mercedes W14 front detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In order to take advantage of this, the suspension element’s fairings, as well as the chassis blister that Mercedes employs, also appear to have been modified. 

The blister, originally introduced as part of an upgrade package for the British Grand Prix last season, appears less steeply angled than before to better align with the new position of the lead arm of the upper wishbone. This will help to set up the necessary flow structures to take advantage of the changes made to the bodywork downstream.

Allied to this, a new floor vane has cropped up beside the chassis and behind the area where Mercedes continues to employ a set of downwash canards (blue arrow).

The vane, like the canards, is permissible due to them being within the box region associated with the chassis, suggesting that the W14’s chassis isn’t taking up the full space allotment.

Mercedes W14 sidepods winglet detail

Mercedes W14 sidepods winglet detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The main focus of this update package, especially from a visual perspective, is the sidepods.

But while a lot has already been said about what has changed with the W14’s bodywork, it’s also worth talking about what hasn’t changed. In that respect, we have to cover one of the main features of the departed zeropod solution: the SIS fairing. 

This fairing was a requirement of the old layout, given it enclosed the upper side impact structure, with the safety feature required to be mounted within a certain dimensional window on the chassis.

The same, of course, is true of the lower side impact structure, with teams all taking a different approach to this challenge to create the right balance for their desired choice of packaging for the sidepods and floor, while also being mindful of leaving development scope for the aerodynamics.

And, under the rigours posed by the cost cap and resource restrictions of these regulations, teams are unable to simply redesign and manufacture a new chassis to overcome any of the shortcomings they find when making large scale concept shifts such as this one.

For Mercedes, this means that the SIS positions and the fairing are retained, with it absorbed into the new design language of this new concept. 

As part of this, the vane slung beneath the fairing has also been kept but has been reduced in height, increased in length and also features a feather-like pair of slots in the lower half, as the team looks to improve flow around the sidepod’s shoulder (old specification inset, red arrow).

The fairing being above and ahead of the inlet also results in an overbite, with the lower leading edge of the new sidepod inlet set back behind it. 

Of course, this is contrary to the direction that most of the grid have taken. Many have followed Red Bull’s lead of having an underbite lower leading-edge protrusion, in order to extend the undercut and help protect the airflow being captured by the inlet from the wake being generated by the front tyre.

Nonetheless, Mercedes has still been able to craft an undercut beneath the inlet to help improve the route that the airflow takes around the lower corner of the bodywork, which has also been widened to accommodate the downwash ramp portion of the assembly.

The downwash ramp’s upper surface also features a design we’ve seen elsewhere, with Alpine the first to pursue the water slide-style branch in the development tree.  Others, such as Aston Martin, have since picked up the baton and introduced deeper gulleys, a route that Alpine itself has now jumped on too with revisions introduced in Monaco.

On top of the Mercedes sidepod, there’s also a panel that can be changed according to the level of cooling required, with each version sporting a different number and size of cooling louvres.

Mercedes W14 technical detail

Mercedes W14 technical detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W14 floor edge wing comparison

Mercedes W14 floor edge wing comparison

The additional width afforded by the new sidepod bodywork has also allowed Mercedes to apply another trick we’ve seen from Red Bull over the course of these last few seasons. This is the use of a support beam alongside the metal support spars to help maintain floor stiffness.

Mercedes also made changes to its floor as part of this extensive overhaul, not only in terms of making sure the floor interfaces well with the new sidepod bodywork but also in terms of the floor fence camber and the edge wing’s design. 

In respect to the latter, the scrolled section is now deeper and features a trio of strakes to help control the direction of flow, rather than the solo strake that previously adorned this section.

Marshals remove the car of Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, from the circuit with a crane

Marshals remove the car of Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, from the circuit with a crane

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The unique logistics involved in recovering cars around the streets of Monaco also resulted in our first real peek at the W14’s underfloor as it was hoisted over the barriers following Lewis Hamilton’s FP3 shunt.

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What’s apparent from the images captured is that Mercedes has made changes since last season, as it has taken onboard some design features seen elsewhere, including the revetted keel design as it merges with the crash structure.

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