Mercedes GP MGP W01

Last year, Ross Brawn et al. took the dismal Honda F1 team and a fantastically well-developed BGP01 to the top of the charts, winning the World Driver’s Championship with Jenson Button and beating Red Bull Racing to the World Constructor’s Championship.  During the off-season, they were bought out by Mercedes, handily addressing their funding issues and introducing the expectation of a no-expense-spared challenger for 2010.  About the only way their expectations could get any higher would have been for them to sign on one of the legends of Formula One, like Niki Lauda or the ghost of Ayrton Senna.

Or Michael Schumacher.  That’ll do fine.

So what car will Schumi drive under the crushing weights of aerodynamic downforce and impossible expectations?  Ladies and gentlemen, the MGP W01:

The first thing to jump out at me is the sidepod profile.  Most teams are running deeply undercut sidepods (especially obvious on the Sauber C29) to channel air around the base of the floor into the rear of the car, but the W01 has vertical sidepods with only a hint of undercut right at the front.  This may have something to do with the very tight layout at the rear of the car, which puts most of the rear suspension components in the airstream.  Rather than channeling air around the sides of the car, Ross Brawn seems to have paid more attention to getting it up and over the top of the car and into the rear wing from above.

Look at the airbox layout.  Rather than build the rollover protection structure into the sides of the airbox, Mercedes GP have built a thick central spine instead, with a lowered airbox inlet splitting around the spine and rejoining below.  This places the leading edge of the W01’s dorsal fin further forward and lowers the meaty part of the airbox structure, both of which should contribute tremendously to smooth, fast airflow to the rear wing.  Insightful commenter DaveKillens on the f1technical forums points out that the central spar allows more development of the airbox structure, since only the spar needs to be crash-tested by the FIA and surrounding bodywork can be redesigned with impunity.

Let’s talk about the front.  The W01 has an obvious single-keel suspension layout, like the F10, which ought to stand them in good stead through slower corners.  The front of the W01 nose section is quite low, but rises sharply to a — you guessed it — Newey vee-profile near the suspension pickups.  Looks like it ought to create a lot of downforce even without MP4-25ish front diffuser shenanigans.

The single-keel suspension layout is particularly obvious here.  Between the strakes up the side of the nose to the camera mounts and the deep vee-channel in the top, I’d guess that the bottom of the nose cone is reasonably well sealed off from airflow over the top, creating a mild venturi effect along with the centre section of the front wing (which, by the way, is a 2009 model, not a new development).  I can’t see a reason to put the camera pods where they did — seems to me that moving them down below the strake, right in front of the upper-front A-arm pickup, they could further lengthen the “front diffuser channel”.  Maybe there’s something else going on with the front aero that I’m too dim to notice.

More commentary on f1technical here and in this forum thread.


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