Mercedes W10 technical analysis

It's time to take a look at another of the Formula One cars to have been launched ahead of the first test. This time we have the one to beat, as Mercedes look to cling onto their championship crown and take a sixth successive title. 

Anyone expecting a revolution from Mercedes will be disappointed, as their evolutionary approach has worked exceptionally well up til now and as such the W10 features the long wheelbase low rake concept that you’ll already be familiar with.

The team already teased us with an image of their 2019 spec front wing, complete with their EQ launch livery which features the now standard five element flapped section and double strake arrangement on the underside of the wing. 

However, the level of detail on the actual wing has ramped things up ever so slightly.

We can now see that the inboard arc’s, that were present on the cars predecessor have been retained, harnessing and shaping the vortex shed. Above this the flap tips have been wrapped over, further enhancing the vortexes rotation.

The slot gap separators and wing angle adjuster are all clearly oriented in a way that the airflow will be guided by them, angling flow outboard. The team have mounted their thermal imaging camera on a minimal support that’s hung from the endplate and doubles as a small turning vane, albeit heavily limited in that role by regulation.

The mainplane extrudes up to meet with the endplate, exposing the two strakes mounted beneath the wing and also allows for a small inboard curvature of the endplate, which then wraps over to create a more drooped footplate section.

This leads us to perhaps the most surprising and intriguing aspect of their design - the shape of the endplate, which rather than being skewed outward and releasing that airflow outboard, it actually tapers back inward slightly. This likely forces the outwashing vortices being created by the other elements to form a larger flow field and push flow across and around the front tyre. 

It’s worth remembering when you consider the flow interaction that not only have the teams lost some of the aero trickery they used to have, such as the cascade elements and canards, the position that the endplate must now occupy is much further outboard, altering their perceived management of the flow around the wing and the wake created by the tyre behind.

The front brake duct inlets have been placed up high in order that they get clear flow to them, whilst they’ve also been divided up into multiple sections in order that flow be passed to specific areas of the brakes

The high front suspension position used since the 2017 regs were introduced has been retained, with a similar upright extension deployed. This ties in with the teams continued use of a more conventional sidepod layout, but we’ll return to this shortly.

The nose and ‘cape’ concept is a refinement of last years design, with what appears like a slightly larger ‘S’ duct inlet present on the side of the nose.

The bargeboards are very similar in design to their predecessors but have been adjusted to suit the dimensional criteria. Meanwhile, they’ve converged on the solution used by much of the field in 2018, curving over the forwardmost element in order that it meets with the chassis, framing the airflow and improving its direction.

This continues on the following two elements, but on the outer face, as diverter winglets have been placed near the top edge to encourage the airflows direction. The footplates are extremely sculpted, in much the same way as the ones present on the W09, just as the vertical upstands find a home mounted on them too.

I still expect a major push from Mercedes in this area of the car though…

A relatively large downwash winglet can be found on the side of the chassis, just steadying the flow in that area and improving how it migrates into and around the sidepods.

The sidepod deflectors are also direct descendants of the ones used last season, albeit the forward two elements trimmed to suit the new height regulations. But once again I expect more development will be forthcoming in this region, with only their mounting to the sidepod really overhauled to suit their shape.

Mercedes are still bucking the trend when it comes to their sidepods, refusing to follow the crowd and utilise the Ferrari style periscope layout and instead utilising a more conventional sidepod shape. Everything is much more compressed though, as the inlet hunkers in close to the chassis. However, it’s still much deeper than you’d expect to see, with now almost letterbox like inlets a regular fixture elsewhere on the grid.

Buried away beneath the sidepod is another flow diverting aid too, these flank wings prevent airflow from otherwise overshooting the sidepod undercut, improving flow downstream and limiting its ingress to the now critical longitudinal floor slots.

These slots, a feature of the cars under the 2017 regulations, have grown in popularity as they help create a number of vortices that can be rolled up and create a sort of air skirt on the floors edge, increasing the floor and diffusers yield.

Mercedes have added three fully enclosed holes between the forward slot already present last year and the angled slots ahead of the tyre, all of which help to create this skirt and also limit the ingress of airflow into the diffusers path when the tyre changes shape under load.

Mercedes like some of the other teams weve seen lauunch have two mirror stalks, both of which go to extraodinary lengths to not only support the quite large mirror but also impart an aerodynamic advantage

The sidepods bodywork, cooling outlet and the engine cover have all been pared in even more so than in 2018, highlighting just how much work has been done at Brixworth to improve the cooling parameters of the powerunit.

The rear wing follows the new height and width requirements of the 2019 regulations but also takes advantages of some of the lessons learnt by the team over the past two seasons. This work has been done primarily with the endplates, where you’ll find slots in the lower leading edge, two hanging strakes in the outer bounding of the transition region and upwash strikes above them, all of which look to improve the wings output, be it in terms of downforce or reducing drag.

The team have also switched from the central mounting pillar, which intersected the exhaust, with the W10 featruing to a twin swan-neck style pillar solution istead, which actually allows for a small weight saving and improves the effectiveness of the underside of the mainplane. 

Mounted on the engine cover, just ahead of the rear wing the team have retained a T-Wing solution with drooped outer edges but have also married it to a pair of spars that support it from a lower position on the sidepod cooling outlet. 

A bladed monkey seat winglet is also present above the exhaust in order to alter the trajectory of the exhaust plume, but this will likely come and go, as and when it’s needed at specific circuits.

The car was not only unveiled today but was also shook down, as the drivers put it through the early paces at Silverstone. Mercedes see this as crucial in their preparation process and helps them to uncover any small niggles before they get out to Barcelona and lose track time on fault finding exercises.

Here's some quotes from both James Allison and Andy Cowell that you may find of interest too...

"The handling of the W09 was a big improvement over the rather idiosyncratic W08. We managed to be competitive at tracks which had plagued us in recent years. However, notwithstanding this improvement, we were still not as good as some of our competitors at preserving the performance of the rear tyres. We have worked hard on the suspension and aerodynamic characteristics to deliver a car that will be much kinder to its tyres – enough, we hope, to allow us to be competitive at all phases of the race and at each track on the calendar. 

Even though the minimum weight limit was lifted by 10kg for 2019, weight reduction remains a real challenge on the current generation of F1 cars. Components that we felt were stripped to the bone in 2018 have been taken, one by one, and subjected to a further round of aggressive analysis to shave further weight from them. Some components surrender what feels like a giant step of half a kilo, others just a few grams, but collectively each of these victories add up to a handful of kilos that have been invested back in the car on aerodynamics, suspension and Power Unit to bring performance.

The W10 retains the same wheelbase and general architecture as its forebears, but a close inspection will reveal that the execution of this concept has been further refined – every item pushed tighter, made more slender – each change permitting us to improve the aerodynamic performance beyond what would have been possible had we accepted the physical limitations of the 2018 design." - James Allison

"There are no big regulation changes that impact the architecture of the Power Unit, so it is about the evolution of systems. We’ve made changes to the cooling architecture of the Power Unit, which hopefully provide aerodynamic benefit on the car and also provide efficiency benefit on the Power Unit – so, hopefully a win on both the chassis and on the Power Unit. Right at the heart of the Power Unit is the conversion of fuel into heat release in the combustion chamber and useful work out of the crankshaft." 

We have made steps on the combustion efficiency and on the ERS system. The marriage between the turbocharger assembly with the MGU-H, the inverter, the cells and the MGU-K: that whole system is now capable of operating more efficiently and helping with energy deployment through a race.

The fuel is right at the heart of the combustion and making sure that the chemical composition and the thermodynamic architecture of the Power Unit are working together exceptionally well is key to thermal efficiency. PETRONAS have continued to work well with our thermodynamic engineers, we’ve run many candidates on the single cylinder and on the V6 engine to derive a new fuel for 2019. It’s a very tight-knit group, the PETRONAS engineers know exactly how the engine works and our Power Unit engineers know exactly how the fuel works.

PETRONAS also provide the lubricants for our car which play two roles: to make sure that components don’t contact, it’s key that there is an oil film between highly loaded components both for reliability and for friction reduction. If you can keep components apart the friction is lower, and the wear is lower, but the lubricant also provides cooling within the engine. It’s a critical element of the engine, it’s the lifeblood of the engine for its survival." - Andy Cowell

This analysis is also available in video format and can be found over on my YouTube channel with the rest of the analysis pieces from the launches so far.

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Videos