Mercedes Technical Director James Allison says trying to recoup aerodynamic performance lost under revised regulations has been one of its main challenges during the off-season.
Mercedes romped to 13 victories and 16 pole positions from 17 races in 2020, taking a seventh successive title, with its W11 setting a litany of new track records.
Formula 1 opted to retain the current chassis for 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but tweaks have been made in the regulations in order to reduce downforce levels.
Allison says understanding the effect of the changes, and reacting accordingly, has been one of Mercedes’ biggest tasks when designing its W12 for the 2021 campaign.
“There was a concern that if we left the aerodynamic development of these cars unchecked then the performance would just keep increasing as it has been doing it for a number of seasons now,” he said in a video produced by Mercedes.
“It would keep increasing to a level where the cars would just simply outgrow the tyres and perhaps even aspects of the circuits.
“There has been a triangular cut-out to the edges of the floor in front of the rear wheels which when you see it you’ll think “That doesn’t look that big” but on its own in its rawest form if you just chop that area off your car it’ll take about a second a lap away from the car.”
Changes have also been made to parts on the rear brake ducts, parts of the diffuser, as well as the front-end of the floor around the bargeboard, all tasked at reducing aerodynamic prowess.
“The combination of those four effects in their rawest form, just cut-off and trimmed back in a way that the rules require, brings the performance of the car way back to sort of somewhere near 2019 levels,” added Allison.
“It’s been our challenge over the weeks since those rules, the weeks, and months those rules were set in stone to try to recover as much of the performance as possible.
“That has been quite an entertaining ride in the wind tunnel and in CFD to try and make sure that we get that performance as far as possible back onto the car.”