The team’s closer cooperation with AMG is also reflected in the new 2021 livery, with AMG branding replacing the star pattern on the engine cover which now fades to Mercedes’ traditional racing silver from the black base livery introduced in 2020. The most prominent colour remains the iconic green of Title Partner PETRONAS on the front and rear wings, nose, mirrors and halo, with the parallel green and silver stripes on the flanks of the car symbolising more than a decade of partnership between Mercedes and PETRONAS. The visual identity is completed by the burgundy of team shareholder and Principal Partner INEOS, which features on the airbox and the inside of the front wing endplates. The result is a striking and distinctive look for the season ahead.
This season also marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the team following the announcement late last year that Toto, Daimler and INEOS will be one-third, equal shareholders.
“The fact that we were able to attract INEOS as an investor shows that we have a strong business case and that F1 continues to be a highly attractive platform for big brands and companies,” said Toto. “We’re also seeing a slight shift in the way that F1 teams operate as the cost cap and the new structure move us towards a business model that is more familiar in American sports franchises.
“At the same time, having three strong shareholders in the team gives us even more stability for the future. On a personal level, I’m thrilled to commit to the team for the long term and increase my share slightly. I’ve always said that this team is like a family to me, and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”
Significant aero changes for the 2021 season
The biggest technical challenge on the 2021 F1 cars has been adapting to the new aerodynamic regulations, with the introduction of several significant changes to key performance areas on the car.
“If you’re looking to slow a car down, which is effectively what the regulation changes were intended to do, modifying the floor is by far the easiest and cheapest way of achieving your objective,” said James Allison. “The floor is such an important aerodynamic component that small geometrical changes bring large reductions in performance. Once the rules had been established, our task was to figure out how to recover the losses brought by the changes.”
The aerodynamic changes have been a key focus in the development of the W12, but some of the parts on our new car are identical to the W11 owing to the new carryover rules. In some ways, this has lessened the peak of work required for the new car, but it’s also produced its own new challenges and difficulties.
“What’s carried over will look different from team to team, because the rules didn’t require you to carry over the same things,”
explained James Allison. “The rules freeze a large chunk of the car, but then give each team two tokens to spend on changing their car. Along with the tokens comes a shopping list showing how many tokens are required for each change. How teams decided what to use their tokens on was entirely up to them.
“In addition, there are some parts of the car that you can change token-free, for example, the Power Unit, the cooling systems, the suspension and of course all of the aerodynamic surfaces. We have spent our tokens, but we won’t reveal how we used them just yet. That’ll become clear in good time. Once the racing gets underway, pretty much everything under the skin of the car must then be frozen for the entire year. With the specific permission of the FIA, you can make changes for reliability or cost-saving, but if part of your car isn’t performing well, then you are stuck with it for the whole season.”
The significant aerodynamic changes to the floor and adapting to the carryover rules have kept the team busy, but there are opportunities for improvement in many areas of the car, and our engineers have been working tirelessly to find an edge.
“Our other aerodynamic work has been the normal fare of seeking out aerodynamic opportunity across every square centimetre of the car with particular attention to finding places where we can invest extra weight into fancier aerodynamic geometry,” James added.
“2021 permits the cars to be 6kg heavier, and we have an additional few kilos to spend as a result of DAS being banned. Beyond this, the carryover rules have confined us to figure out how we can make some parts live longer, so we don’t have to replace or buy them so often.”
There are new Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions (ATR) coming into force this year, with the general amount of time allocated for wind tunnel testing and CFD testing being reduced. On top of that is a form of handicapping, granting teams less or more access to these aerodynamic tools depending on their championship position. Therefore, because of our Championship victory in 2020, we will have 22% less access in 2021 compared to the last-placed team.
“We have always tried to get the most out of every wind tunnel and CFD session, but there’s nothing like having a new constraint imposed to renew the spur to become more productive and efficient,” James said. “We are determined to find better ways of working so that we can mitigate the effect of this handicapping.”
Pirelli is introducing a new, more durable tyre this season, which teams trialled last year in Portimão, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. None of the teams has had a lot of experience with it and with only three days of pre-season testing this year, every lap on track will count to get up to speed with these new tyres.
“The tyre is a little slower, owing to the trade-off for more durability, but it is consistent and should give us trouble-free racing,” James said. “However, it will be an interesting competitiveness factor in 2021. Any time a tyre changes, it is always a learning race between the teams to find its sweet spot – where the new rubber gives its best performance.”
These different elements stack up to present a significant challenge for 2021 and make it far from a simple ‘carryover’ year. But while the 2021 season may be staring us in the face, we also have a team of people working on the extensive regulation changes for 2022.
“The ideal situation would be to have a car that is so brilliantly fast, you can almost turn your back on it immediately and focus on the next one,” said James. “But Formula One is never that simple. The siren call of the 2021 racing campaign will inevitably draw our attention from the seismic changes of the 2022 regulations.
“We will walk a tightrope all year between doing enough to be competitive in 2021 and putting as much as we dare into 2022.
Managing the bird in the hand and the one in the bush is the eternal challenge of F1 and doing so in the face of both the cost cap and the completely new 2022 technical regulations will be a challenge like no other.”