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F1 ANALYSIS: Why Mercedes have made radical changes to the W14

F1 ANALYSIS: Why Mercedes have made radical changes to the W14

F1 News

F1 ANALYSIS: Why Mercedes have made radical changes to the W14

F1 ANALYSIS: Why Mercedes have made radical changes to the W14
Shubham Sangodkar

The Mercedes W14 was meant to be the resurgence of the eight-time constructors world champions in 2023, but such have been its nuances that team principal Toto Wolff has gone on record to say that the “W14 is a nasty piece of work”.

In a recent Interview with the Mercedes trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin stated that it was pretty clear to the team after the Bahrain testing and race that they needed to look at a new concept rather than evolving the existing slim sidepod philosophy that Mercedes stuck to at the beginning of 2023. So what makes the W14 a nasty piece of work? Well, let's find out !!

Lewis Hamilton is chased down by Max Verstappen at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix

W14, A nasty piece of work?

Driver Seating Position To accommodate their slim sidepod philosophy Mercedes had to move the driver cockpit slightly forward. As with everything in F1, small details count. Lewis Hamilton has consistently expressed himself about a lack of feeling in the car.

Hamilton said: “We sit closer to the front wheels than all the other drivers. Our cockpit is too close to the front. When you’re driving you feel like you’re sitting on the front wheels, which is one of the worst feelings”.

What that does is it really changes how you perceive the attitude of the car and its movement into corners. It makes the car harder to predict as compared to when you’re further back and sitting more centred.

Technically, if a driver's view is right on top of the front tyres they experience yaw as simply an increase in rotation, but as they move backwards in the car they also are moving outwards as the rear slip angle increases.

This helps a driver sense changes in yaw better. More is not better however as being too far from the front tires also reduces their ability to place them correctly. There is an ideal range which is a function of not just the car but also the driving style.

READ MORE: F1 ANALYSIS: Red Bull's secret top speed weapon revealed

Mercedes drivers are typically seated nearer to the front of the car - Credit @pebble-reddit

Aero Balance The Mercedes drivers don't seem to like the 'Through Corner Aero Balance' which refers to how the balance of the car changes as it goes through the corner. Hamilton has stated: “We have an aero characteristic, which is too forwards rather than being rear sat down as you begin to turn and coming off the brakes then moving rearward. Or the other way around: we have one that's very forwards, very much on the nose early on and then shifts later on rearwards near the apex. So, it's doing the opposite of what we want and that's what we trying to fix. This can be observed especially with the struggles of Mercedes in the high-speed corners wherein they are even behind Ferrari.

Balance-wise, as you approach a corner, you want to have a stable rear end on braking and initial turn-in to carry the speed into the corner. As you progressively approach the apex of the corner, you ideally want to have the balance move forward to assist the turning. Once the apex is over and you are back on the throttle you want the balance to move rearwards to get the maximum traction out of the corners.

The typical approach to a Formula 1 corner - Credit

Downforce, Efficiency and Aero Platform Stability Toto Wolff suggested that the W14 lacks downforce compared to RB19 and has a smaller aero operational window. What does he really mean by this? Putting it simply it means that the W14 cannot produce consistent downforce across a range of pitch, roll, yaw and steer conditions. So what is it that is fundamentally lacking in the aero philosophy of the W14?

Downforce and Efficiency CFD Simulations of the W14 and the AMR 23 done in collaboration with @vanja from f1 technical have shown that the 'Wide Sidepod' aero philosophy vs the 'Slim Sidepod' aero philosophy delivers three important objectives.

Those are effectively closing the front wheel wake, delivering high-energy air to the rear of the car (Beam wing + Diffuser ) via the sidepod undercut and directing higher mass flow rate through the floor inlet due to pressurisation from the undercut.

Meeting these key aero objectives seems to be the key to unlocking performance on this generation of F1 cars. Mercedes are bringing new sidepods and floor and Toto Wolf has suggested that the W14B would look very different from the W14, so maybe a wide sidepod is on the cards.

Since the floor and diffuser have been lacking downforce, Mercedes has had to overload the rear wing to generate the necessary downforce to match their rivals to obtain their fastest lap time. This had led to the W14 having lower efficiency than its rivals but with the new floor and sidepods coming, this might change.

READ MORE: F1 ANALYSIS: Have Azerbaijan GP upgrades made Red Bull and Mercedes faster?

The differences in the Aston Martin (left) and Mercedes air flow - @f1aerodynamicist

Aero Platform Stability Aero Platform Stability is achieved via the synergy of aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics, in particular the suspension layout. Last year, Mercedes had the most amount of bouncing so obviously their ride height data must have been skewed as compared to that of RedBull.

Red Bull changed its suspension layout this year as they understood what ride heights to operate and optimize on to create a stable aero platform. Mercedes on the other hand were soo busy fixing their aero concept that it meant this area took a hit. Mercedes is expected to test a new front suspension in Barcelona.

This would definitely be related to the changes in the floor as the suspension is the bridge between the front wing and the floor but would also be aimed to provide a more stable aero platform for the W14B.

A look at the Red Bull (left) and Mercedes ahead of the 2022 season - Credit zolo - reddit

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Master's in Racing Car Design specialising in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.

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