Mike Elliott, the Technical Director of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, says the regulation changes presented the team with some of the biggest changes he’s witnessed during his time in Formula 1 as they developed their 2022 challenger, the W13.
Mercedes unveiled their new car on Friday, the eighth of ten teams to do so, and Elliott says there were many challenges that presented themselves to the engineers as they adapted to the new regulations.
The regulation changes meant there were very distinct changes between the Constructors’ Championship winning W12 and the W13, with Elliott feeling there were three separate aspects to take into account.
“On the chassis side, the changes are huge,” said Elliott. “We haven’t had a change as big as this one in my career.
“I think there are three aspects to this: first, the way the regulations are constructed is very different, particularly for aerodynamics, and that has a big impact. Second, what they are trying to achieve with the aerodynamics means the cars are fundamentally a different shape.
“Third, this is the first time we will have attempted such a big change under a cost cap.”
Elliott says the engineers always love a challenge and took it upon themselves to design ‘something fresh’, and it will be good to see if Mercedes can add to their eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship triumphs in 2022.
“Engineers love a challenge and therefore it is a fantastic opportunity to do something fresh,” Elliott added. “In the aerodynamic world, normally you are chasing after little bits and pieces, but with such big regulation changes, the gains have been coming in big chunks which is quite satisfying.
“On the flipside, we’ve had a period of success, winning the last eight Constructors’ titles and this is a reset. All the teams have started from scratch with the model provided by F1 and you don’t get to carry over the benefits or fix the issues from last year’s car, so everyone began this journey at the same level.”
Reduction in Wind Tunnel Usage could Mix Up Competitive Order
Due to winning the Constructors’ Championship last year, Mercedes will have less running time in wind tunnels in 2022 compared to the other teams, and Elliott says this may have an effect in the pecking order going into the new season.
“The teams have started with different allocations of runs in the wind tunnel and hours of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) so it has the potential to really mix up the order,” Elliott said.
“That’s an exciting test as an engineer but there is obviously some risk in there too, in terms of our competitive position.”
The new regulations have seen the aerodynamic shape of the Formula 1 cars change, and Elliott says this has been a big challenge to the Mercedes engineers, and he hopes they have found the right way to ensure they are still one of the teams to beat going into the new season.
“Getting to the desired aero shapes has meant a complete internal repackaging, right down to the electrical layout and where we fit things like the ECU,” he said. “The suspension has been redesigned to account for the loss of hydraulics and remote springs, now banned in the new regulations.
“Hopefully, you will also see that we have taken another step with how tightly packaged the sidepods and engine cover are. To get to this is not just a shrink-wrapping exercise but requires a huge amount of redesign and simulation to make it work.”
The other major change has come from Pirelli, with eighteen-inch tyres coming into replace the long-running thirteen-inch tyres, and Elliott says there are ‘subtle’ changes to consider with the updated rubber.
“What we have seen in testing, particularly the Abu Dhabi test at the end of 2021, is that there are subtle differences,” revealed Elliott. “It is going to change what we want to do with set-up, but it is a step in the right direction as I think the tyre will help improve the racing, won’t overheat as much and will be easier to manage.”