Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s tenth modern-day F1 car hits the track for the first time at Silverstone.
With a little over four weeks to go until the start of the 2019 FIA Formula One season, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport today completed the first laps with its 2019 challenger. Named the Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+, the 2019 contender ran on the 2.98 km Silverstone International Circuit this morning with Valtteri Bottas behind the wheel, to be followed by Lewis Hamilton this afternoon.
“The 2019 season will be a new challenge for all of us,” said Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO. “The regulations have changed quite substantially. We have to start from scratch, we need to prove ourselves again – against our own expectations and against our competitors. We start the season with zero points, so we’re taking nothing for granted and there’s absolutely no feeling of entitlement to be at the front. In fact, with the regulation change for the new season, every team can have a shot at the title and we’re seeing all of them as a potential threat.”
Today’s running constitutes an official 100 km filming day, which the team also uses as a final systems check before the first pre-season test in Barcelona.
“We’re eager to hit the ground running in Barcelona, to benchmark ourselves against our own simulations and see if our predictions materialise on track,” said Toto. “We will focus on ourselves, building up performance and hopefully be ready when the first really competitive session starts on Saturday in Melbourne.”
New aero regulations drive significant changes to the W10
Compared to its predecessor, the Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+ has been changed substantially. The majority of those modifications were driven by the significant changes to the Technical Regulations for the 2019 Formula One season.
“Regulation changes are both opportunity and threat,” said Technical Director James Allison. “They are an opportunity because all the old assumptions about what you need to have to be quick are swept away and, if you are fleet of foot and smart in dealing with that, you can do better than all the other teams that are tackling the same change. They are a threat because if you are not as smart and you didn’t see how to make the most of these new regulations, then you’ll certainly suffer in the coming season. But they are always exhilarating because you have that sharp sense of anxiety that you might not be doing enough but equally the thrill and excitement of looking forward to finding out.”
In addition to dealing with the changes to the aerodynamic regulations, which were the main focus in the development of the W10, the team worked hard to improve the weaker areas of the previous car and further build on its strengths.
“The handling of the W09 was a big improvement over the rather idiosyncratic W08,” said James. “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.”
Despite significant changes to many areas of the car, the W10 also retains some of the characteristics of its predecessors, as the general architecture and the wheelbase stay the same.
“A close inspection will reveal that the execution of this concept has been further refined,” said James. “Every item is 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.”
An all-new Power Unit for the 2019 season – the Mercedes-AMG F1 M10 EQ Power+
While the chassis development was partly driven by regulatory changes, the Power Unit regulations remained largely stable, making the development work more of an evolutionary process in which the team worked hard to achieve two main goals – improving performance and reliability.
“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,” said Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains.
“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 team’s title partner PETRONAS played an important role in the hunt for improved performance and reliability, especially in the development of the new Power Unit.
“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,” said Andy. “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.”
The maximum race fuel allowance has increased by 5 kilograms to a total of 110 kilograms. However, the higher fuel allowance does not impact the thermal efficiency of Formula One Power Units, which are among the most efficient engines ever-built.
“If you have got an efficient engine with efficient aerodynamics and you are prepared to do a little bit of lift and coasting, then you have the opportunity to start the race at less than 110kg,” explained Andy. “For every 5kg of weight you save, it’s about two tenths of a second a lap quicker, so there is a natural reward to starting the race a little bit lighter. There is still a competitive edge from making an efficient car – both Power Unit and aerodynamics – and racing smartly to make sure that you have good pace at the start of the race as well as through the race.”