Just 75 days after the last race of the 2019 season, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team took to the track this morning to complete the first laps with the team’s all-new car for the 2020 F1 season. The Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance, as the car is officially known, ran at Silverstone with Valtteri Bottas behind the wheel. Lewis Hamilton is scheduled to drive the 2020 contender in the afternoon.
“2020 will be particularly challenging because there will be teams that will put a lot of focus on 2020 and there will be teams that will start to shift their resources into 2021. Getting that balance right will very important, but that’s not an easy thing to do,” said Toto Wolff. “Our ambition is clear: we want to be competitive in both 2020 and 2021. That is a great challenge, but the greater the challenge, the more we like it.”
Named Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance, the new car proudly carries the “EQ Performance” designation. As part of the strategy of Mercedes-AMG, “EQ Performance” stands for the brand’s future Mercedes-AMG performance hybrid models. The EQ Performance designation places the 2020 Formula One car and its state-of-the-art hybrid Power Unit at the forefront of the future Mercedes-AMG line-up, showcasing how F1 technology is pioneering the future of motor racing and automotive technology in general. “W11” represents the fact that this is the eleventh Mercedes-made Formula One car since the three-pointed star returned to Formula One as a works team in 2010.
The factories were bustling over the winter to develop, manufacture, assemble and test new components and systems for the new car. Over 100,000 parts were checked in inspection with 40,000 components tested in non-destructive testing to make sure they were up to the standards the team requires; over 8,000 drawn parts created and put through the manufacturing and testing process.
“The atmosphere this year is very calm, very focused – we all know that there’s a job to do and results to be delivered in order to meet our own expectations, so we’re working hard to try and prepare in the best way possible,” said Toto. “We feel no sense of entitlement to win races or championships, we know that we need to fight extremely hard for that as we had to in every year. This has been our mindset from the beginning.”
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. This initial test and filming day is known as the shakedown and takes place at the 2.98 kilometre Silverstone International Circuit.
Both drivers were eager to get back into the car after their winter break, which included intensive training to prepare for the upcoming season.
“It’s a real privilege for Valtteri and myself to be the only people who get to drive this machine and I’m really looking forward to stretching its legs”, said Lewis Hamilton. “I’ve been in constant communications with the engineers, trying to keep an eye on everything that was happening at the factory. Today is a really exciting day – finally seeing in person what this team has worked towards so hard. As a driver, you’re just itching to get back into the car.”
“The first time I came to the factory this was quite a few weeks ago for a number of meetings with the engineers and we’ve been in touch since then,” said Valtteri Bottas. “It’s been really interesting for me to get more and more involved, learning about all the new features of our weapon for this year’s fight. Developing and building a new car is never straight-forward, it’s a huge effort by every single team member to deliver this year on year. Now things really kick off and I’m very excited to finally get the chance to drive the new car. I’ve been waiting to get back behind the wheel.”
“The shakedown has always been important, but it is particularly precious this year. It’s our last chance to make sure all is well ahead of the first official day of Winter Testing. If all goes well in the shakedown then we will be well placed to roll out the garage at nine o’clock in Barcelona and just start hitting the laps,” said James Allison, Technical Director. “With a shorter winter testing programme, that last ticking everything off at the shakedown is proportionally more important so we are determined to squeeze every drop of goodness from it that we can.”
Stable regulations for the new season
The Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance is an evolution of last year’s contender – the car that won Mercedes its historic sixth consecutive double championship. The team has looked at a myriad of areas to improve the car and has changed the vast majority of the over 10,000 parts of the car to extract more performance. The Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance is expected to become the fastest Mercedes race car ever built.
“The regulations stayed largely the same for the new year, so for us it was all about trying to make sure that we don’t run out of development steam on a package that worked pretty well for us last year,” said James. “We wanted to change aspects of the concept of the car – aspects that would be completely impossible to change within a season – to give us a more fertile platform for the new season. We tried to make a few well-chosen architectural changes to keep the development slope strong even though the regulations are now a little bit longer in the tooth.”
In addition to many detail changes and smaller improvements, the team has introduced three larger changes – one at the front, one at the middle and one at the back of the car.
“At the front we have accepted more structural complexity around the uprights and wheel rims in order to provide a higher performance assembly overall,” said James. “In the middle of the car we have followed the pitlane trend by moving our upper side impact tube to the lower position and banking the aerodynamic gain that comes with this layout. At the rear of the car we have gone for an adventurous suspension layout in order to free up aerodynamic development opportunity. All three investments were improvements in their own right, but their real effect is to mobilize a raft of secondary aerodynamic gains both during the winter and, we hope, across the season to come.”
In 2019, the team brought a significant upgrade to the car after the first week of testing that changed the look of the Melbourne car quite significantly compared to the launch car. This year, the race trim will be much closer to the car that is running at Silverstone today.
“We will still have upgrades for Melbourne that will come in the second week of testing, but the ‘entire new car’ approach of 2019 won’t feature,” said James. “Last year, the regulations were changed quite significantly, and they were decided quite late in the year. Under those circumstances, doing a launch car and a week two car gave us the chance to build the maximum amount of learning into our Melbourne car. With the regulations being more mature this year and with the opening stab of the 2020 development already being at the same level as the finish of last year’s car, repeating last year’s approach would not make sense.”
An all-new Power Unit: the Mercedes-AMG F1 M11 EQ Performance
Similar to the development on the chassis side, the all-new Power Unit – christened Mercedes-AMG F1 M11 EQ Performance – is an evolution as the regulations stayed largely the same. However, while the chassis regulations go into their second year of relative stability, the technical regulations around the Power Unit have not had any major changes since the introduction of the current generation of 1.6 litre V6 hybrid engines in 2014, making the hunt for performance increasingly difficult.
“We have had to develop an even wider area of the PU. We have looked at every single system,” said Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains. “We have worked on a huge array of projects, and when summed together they will hopefully help propel the car around the track quicker and give the aerodynamics team more opportunities to improve as well.”
In the six years since its introduction, the Mercedes PU has made significant progress not just in terms of power output and reliability, but also in terms of its efficiency. From 2014 to today, the thermal efficiency has improved from about 44 percent to over 50 percent. Thermal efficiency describes an engine’s ability to convert fuel energy into useful work. Achieving more than 50 percent means that that more than half of the energy in the fuel can be used to propel the car – making the current F1 Power Unit one of the most efficient internal combustion engines ever built. A typical road car engine would usually reach about 30 percent of thermal efficiency.
Trying to come up with new solutions to improve performance and reliability for the seventh year of stable regulations is not an easy thing to do – and the success of it depends to a large extent on the right mindset.
“There is no such thing as perfection, there is always the opportunity to improve and all of us have that mindset,” said Andy. “We’re always improving every detail – the materials, the hardware and ingredients, but also things like our design tools. You know there are areas where you can get better. Being self-critical and keeping an open mind is at the core of that mindset.”
Last year’s car struggled in hot ambient temperatures and team members in both Brackley and Brixworth have worked together to improve the cooling package for the W11. In addition to larger radiators in the car, the team has focused on making the cooling more efficient by proving out higher operating temperatures for the engine.
“We are putting significant effort into making sure that all the cooling fluids on the Power Unit operate at a higher temperature,” said Andy. “This increases the temperature difference between that coolant fluid and the ambient temperature that we are racing in, which increases the effectiveness of the cooling system. That’s a tough challenge though, because large parts of the engine are made from aluminium and the temperatures that we are operating at mean the material properties are decaying quite rapidly. Managing that over an eight-race distance Power Unit cycle is a tough engineering challenge but that’s what we are striving for. As Power Unit engineers we don’t just focus on crankshaft power, we also focus a tremendous amount on the packaging and reducing the overheads for the aerodynamicist, so that they can mainly focus on keeping the car planted through the corner.”
10th anniversary for the Mercedes works team in Formula One
2020 is a special year for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team as the outfit celebrates its 10th anniversary as a modern-day Mercedes works team in Formula One. On 14 March 2010, the new Mercedes F1 team competed in its first race, the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. Since then, the team has started in almost 200 Formula One Grands Prix (198), taken 93 victories, 194 podium places and 48 one-two wins.
“It’s fantastic that the team is able to celebrate its ten-year anniversary,” said Toto Wolff. “We made our first come-back to F1 over 25 years ago as an engine supplier and then we went all in ten years ago. It shows our long-term commitment – with our own works team and as a Power Unit supplier to valuable customers. We have been a part of Formula One with changing technical regulations, with changes in the Daimler top management, but our commitment to the sport hasn’t changed. It’s great that we get to celebrate our tenth anniversary with the Mercedes works team as one further milestone of this commitment.”
2021 changes make 2020 season more challenging
One of the biggest challenges in 2020 will be trying to find the right balance between developing the current car and preparing for the massive changes that will be introduced in F1 in the following year. 2021 will see the biggest change to the technical regulations in the history of Formula One which will require virtually every part of the car to be designed and developed from scratch. In addition to the technical complexity of the regulation change, the new financial regulations mean that teams will have to re-organise the way they tackle these changes.
“2020 is an evolution of the current regulations and the gains will be smaller, so you need more time and effort to keep improving your car,” said Toto. “On the other hand, the 2021 regulations are so very different that you need a lot of time to prepare for them. Every month you start later than your competitors will make it more difficult to catch up. You also have the effect of the cost cap which means that you will have fewer resources available to throw at things in 2021.”
“It’s a massive challenge,” said Toto. “We had a lot of regulatory changes in recent years, but this time we’re effectively tackling a two-year project. Trying to get this right will make 2020 the most difficult season, but it is also an amazing opportunity. This team has shown time and again that it loves being challenged and we will face this one with the same passion and determination that has made Mercedes so strong in recent years.”
A trusted, championship-winning driver line-up for 2020
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team will stay true to the driver line-up that won the team the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Constructors’ Championships – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Both drivers completed an intensive training programme in their winter break and are eager to get behind the wheel again.
“I’ve had the best winter training yet,” said Lewis. “Over the winter, I’ve really been trying to analyse where we were last year and how I can grow and improve as a driver and as a human being. Having great consistency is going to be key for all of us – not just in terms of our reliability, but also for us as drivers. This team works so hard to give us this incredible machine, but if we put a foot wrong out there, it costs all of us, so that’s something I’ve really been trying to focus on – how can I take it to another level as a driver, how can I extract more from myself and from the team, and trying to deliver something really great this year. This is my eighth year with this team and this year’s challenge is super exciting. I have no doubt every single team member will try to raise the bar within themselves and I’ll be trying to do the same.”
“I think this has been my best winter training so far,” said Valtteri. “I did a lot of different training routines in different climate zones; I’m ready and prepared and I can’t wait for the new season to start. I actually did quite a bit of driving as well – from rally cars to dog sleds in the snow in Finland. This season is going to be really challenging, but I know that every single member of this team will give it everything to put us in the best possible position for the fight.”
The driver line-up will be complemented by two drivers sharing reserve driver duties on the race weekends: Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team race driver Stoffel Vandoorne who will support the F1 team; and Esteban Gutierrez in addition to his role as the team’s Simulator and Development Driver. Both Stoffel and Esteban will play an important role in supporting the team’s 2020 challenge with their duties in the factory and at track.