Mercedes has revealed its much-anticipated W12 E Performance ahead of the new season.
The team is aiming to reign supreme over Formula 1 for a record-extending eighth season in succession, while Lewis Hamilton will be looking to become the most successful driver in the sport's history with an eighth title of his own.
As with all teams this season, Mercedes has been forced to carry over a large part of last season's machinery in order to bridge the gap to the delayed introduction of radical new aerodynamic regulations next season.
"What's carried over will look different from team to team, because the rules didn't require you to carry over the same things," said technical director 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."
But Mercedes has highlighted, via a series of images from the W11, the areas that will be affected this season.
"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," explained 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."
In line with the technical directives for the new season, the cut into the rear of the floor will feed airflow further inside the rear wheels, compromising overall downforce.
It is also clear to see that the complexity of the numerous incisions to the bodywork will be simplified, again reducing the maximum downforce achieved by the floor structure at the rear of the car.
As the gaps at the rear of the floor have been closed, similar work has been undertaken to the floor underneath the bargeboards to reduce downforce levels.
Hand-in-hand with the floor, the diffuser is a crucial area for creating downforce in F1, meaning it was a target area to increase the lap times.
As shown above, the height of last season's inboard strakes that circumvent the main structure of the diffuser has been reduced.
This will not cause as big a difference to downforce levels as the triangular cut in the rear of the floor but will work with the newly directed airflow to slow cornering speeds.
Rear brake ducts
The final change mandated by the new regulations is a reduction to the span of the winglets located on the rear brake ducts.
These designs have become more complex and more extravagant as the current formula has progressed and therefore the sport will see revised designs this season.
This means that airflow will be influenced at a reduced rate this year, with the new winglets working with the diffuser strakes to reduce downward pressure from the airflow directed inward of the rear wheels.
As aforementioned by Allison, teams are afforded a limited supply of development tokens to upgrade machinery within and between seasons.
Whilst the team has kept its cards close to its chest regarding where these tokens have been deployed for this year, there has been plenty of scope for change away from the enforced revisions.
"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," Allison 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."
New power train
This season marks Mercedes' first without the oversight of former managing director Andy Cowell, who left High Performance Powertrains in June last year.
Successor Hywel Thomas has outlined what has changed to what has widely been regarded as the best engine in the sport ahead of the new campaign,
"We identified three main areas to work on: first, we've continued the development of the technology in the power unit.
"That's a continuous process, and we feel like we've been able to take a step forward on that front again this year. The second area is reliability.
"We discovered some design issues last year, so we've been looking at those and introduced some changes to address them. And we've also got some completely new innovations that will be in the racing PU for the first time.
"That was particularly challenging because last season finished late, so the winter period has been shorter than normal and has given us less time to prepare, which put extra strain on the business."
With worries already being broadcast by Thomas over potential issues with the power unit during in-house testing, we will have to wait until pre-season begins in Bahrain on March 12 to see whether Mercedes will remain the team to beat in F1.
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