The latest tweaks to Mercedes' F1 wheel spacer design

Mercedes has not raced with its controversial wheel spacer design for the past few Formula 1 races, but it has not stopped developing the idea as the latest updates used in Brazil show

The latest tweaks to Mercedes' F1 wheel spacer design

The spacer works in conjunction with the rear wheel to regulate tyre temperatures, but since the US GP the team has elected not to use it in an attempt to avoid any risk of a protest from Ferrari, which has questioned the legality of the design.

But despite the political background behind its decision to not race the concept, and speculation over what impact this has had on the performance of the Mercedes cars, the team has continued to test and improve the solution during Friday's free practice sessions.

As the above drawings show, changes were made to the wheel centre ridges at Interlagos to alter the flow characteristics around the holes that line the inner face.

This is not only helping the team to collect data for the design's potential use in 2019 but could also be seen as a method of misdirection.

With the world championships now settled, and ongoing debate about the design's legality despite the FIA being happy with the idea, it may be that Mercedes goes ahead and races with the spacers in the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Then it will be up to Ferrari or another rival team to decide whether to let the issue go or lodge a protest to try to prove that Mercedes is benefiting from the kind of aerodynamic advantage that a similar system used by Red Bull in 2012 had and was banned.

Much like the Mercedes system, the Red Bull design relied on compliance from wheel rim designer O.Z, leading to a design that would utilise the interaction of the brake assembly, stub axle and wheel rim in order to provide a conduit for air to flow between the two.

The main difference is that the sole purpose of the Red Bull design (below, right) was aerodynamic, paving the way for the static blown axles that have become fashionable since - whereas the Mercedes idea is predominantly used for cooling.

McLaren also worked closely with wheel rim supplier Enkei in 2012 to leverage a cooling benefit, as large holes were drilled in the surface between the spokes and outer rim (above, left).

It was a solution that was not as complex as the close-channel effect we've seen at Red Bull and Mercedes, but it shares some similarities with Mercedes in that it was also run at the rear of the car and that its aim was bridging a thermal relationship between the brakes, wheel rim and tyres.

Halo tweaks

Mercedes has also been addressing the design of its halo fairing over the course of the season, as it looks to improve the flow of air around the safety device.

Teams are allowed to modify the standard titanium structure with up to 20mm of bodywork.

It was obvious this freedom would be used to create aerodynamic structures that not only improved flow around the structure but also onward to other areas of the car.

Up until testing the winged version in Singapore, and then finally racing it in Mexico, Mercedes had been one of only two teams (the other being Red Bull) which had utilised a streamlined version of the fairing.

However, there were changes to the fairing before that, with flank stands appearing in Germany (bottom arrow) which have been changed subtly since and alter the behaviour of the airflow that passes by.

While the number of winglets differs up and down the grid, Mercedes opted for a triple-element winglet arrangement atop its halo (top arrow), maintaining the use of the flank stands too, to control the tip vortices from the added wing.

shares
comments
Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes' F1 titles will have huge 2019 'knock-on'

Previous article

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes' F1 titles will have huge 2019 'knock-on'

Next article

Honda weighing up F1 practice run for Button's team-mate Yamamoto

Honda weighing up F1 practice run for Button's team-mate Yamamoto
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams Mercedes
Author Giorgio Piola
The back-bedroom world-beater that began a new F1 era Plus

The back-bedroom world-beater that began a new F1 era

The first in a line of world beaters was designed in a back bedroom and then constructed in a shed. STUART CODLING recalls the Tyrrell 001

The clues Hamilton’s F1 contract afterthought gives to his future Plus

The clues Hamilton’s F1 contract afterthought gives to his future

The Formula 1 world reacted with surprise when it learned Lewis Hamilton’s long-awaited new Mercedes deal guarantees his presence on the grid only until the end of 2021. Both parties claimed publicly they were happy with the arrangement but, asks MARK GALLAGHER, is there more to it than that?

Formula 1
Apr 17, 2021
How a harshly ejected Red Bull star has been hooked by racing again Plus

How a harshly ejected Red Bull star has been hooked by racing again

Driver-turned-DJ Jaime Alguersuari lost his love for motorsport when he was booted out of Formula 1 just as he was starting to polish his rough edges. Having drifted from category to category then turned his back on racing altogether in 2015, he’s come full circle and is planning a return in karts for fun

Formula 1
Apr 17, 2021
Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola Plus

Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola

While Mercedes struck back against Red Bull by topping the times at Imola on Friday ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the overall picture remains incredibly close. Despite having a possible edge this weekend, the reigning Formula 1 world champion squad is not taking anything for granted...

Formula 1
Apr 16, 2021
What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track Plus

What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track

Mercedes may find itself leading the drivers' and constructors' standings after Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but it is well-aware that it came against the odds, with Red Bull clearly ahead on pace. Here's what the Brackley team must do to avoid its crown slipping

Formula 1
Apr 16, 2021
Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent Plus

Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent

While Japan's fever for motor racing is well-documented, the country has yet to produce a Formula 1 superstar – but that could be about to change, says BEN EDWARDS

Formula 1
Apr 15, 2021
Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration Plus

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

For too long, F1's richest teams have justified being able to spend as much as they want because that's the way they've always conducted their business. STUART CODLING says that's no reason not to kick a bad habit

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Plus

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is not guaranteed

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021