Technical analysis: A detailed look at the Mercedes W08
Nose and Front-Wing
At first glance there isn’t anything new on the front wing except that it meets the required 12.5 degree backsweep. The cascade winglet’s subtle new mounting bracket to the endplate is the only visible change but expect changes before Melbourne.
The nose design is similar but different in many little ways. The camera pods are on shorter mounts by regulation and whilst the S-duct is a carryover feature it differs significantly. Its design moves away from the simple exit slot utilised previously and instead follows what McLaren have been doing creating two deeper grooves, divided by the car’s antenna.
The turning vanes that hang from beneath the nose are split into four elements, each with their own footplate that are again divided into a total of seven individual aerofoils. These fine tune and direct the high speed airflow under the chassis when the car is in yaw.
The conjoined front lower wishbone has been a Mercedes staple piece during the hybrid era however it does not appear to be as prominent this year. The teams now have room to produce more twisted wishbone shapes which are perhaps better exploited with a conventional layout.
Unless you are in the paddock it is hard to sport mechanical changes but it is clear on the W08 that the king pin has been moved to create a visible change to the steering axis. It will be interesting to see if this changes during testing as little is known about the characteristics of the new wider tyres.
The primary bargeboard takes up almost all of the box area set out by the FIA and features a number of perforations along the base to help seal off the splitter behind. The bat wing device that shrouded the ground-speed sensor has been ditched after 3 years and substituted with smaller turning vanes to assist the Y250 vortex’s journey down the car.
A large pair of sculpted vanes are mounted on the car’s flanks ahead: It’s not immediately obvious what their function is but given that it is ahead of the sidepod intakes it could optimise the internal flow of the car.
The tiny Brawn-esque sidepod inlets have transpired due to the maturing power unit regulations – they become easier to cool sufficiently, so the inlet size can be reduced and drag decreased.
Most of the cars will be some 15cm longer than last year to manage the larger front tyre wake and take advantage of the larger floor. The W08’s sidepods have certainly extended and as a result the coolers inside are stretched and the bodywork squeezed in for less blockage.
The W08’s complexity stems into the huge flow conditioners that straddle the car, composed of three elements. They reach forward to deflect as much wake from the sidepod undercut as possible, while their curled bottoms entice clean flow towards the rear where it can be used more effectively.
These are accompanied by new wing mirrors which appear to incorporate infrared cameras to monitor tyre temperatures.
Floor and Diffuser
The new diffuser complies with the rules yet already there are new ideas in view. Rather than a simple periphery flap the outboard sections have received, of all things, a bit of front wing treatment, featuring an extreme outsweep to further lure the air from underneath the car.
Having used scallop slots ahead of the rear tyres to displace turbulence away from the diffuser in recent years it is interesting to see Mercedes move to an array of simple perforations for 2017.
Although there is nothing particularly special here it is worth noting that the rear wing has a bow shaped profile, i.e. shallower at its tips than at its centre. This gives us some indication as to how balanced the car is aerodynamically, in that they don’t need maximum downforce from the wing to counter the front end grip…