Just 12 weeks after the chequered flag fell on the 2020 Formula One season, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team has officially revealed its challenger for the 2021 season. The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance was presented on March 2 in the brand-new Race Bays at the Brackley technical centre, officially opening a cutting-edge facility that has been created over the past 18 months.
The factories have been a hive of activity over the winter, as team members searched for new solutions, opportunities and improvements in their hunt for performance. Long days, late nights, tough decisions and intense deadlines – the combined and collective effort of every member of the team, coming together to ensure W12 is ready to hit the track on schedule.
“Every year we reset our focus and define the right objectives,” said Toto Wolff. “That may sound simple but it’s damn hard and is probably why there are no sports teams out there with seven consecutive titles. So many things can happen and it’s very natural to get used to success, and therefore not fight as hard for it.
“But this team has not shown any of that. I see the same fire, hunger and passion now as I did the first time I walked through the doors in 2013. Every season presents a new challenge and therefore, a new goal for us to achieve. 2021 brings changes to the regulations, which could impact our competitiveness, plus the cost cap and working on the major rule changes of 2022. These challenges excite us.”
The team’s 2021 challenger is named Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance and is the first car to use the E Performance designation, signifying a closer alignment to the Mercedes-AMG performance division in the future.
This season also marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the team following the announcement late last year that Wolff, Daimler and INEOS will be one-third, equal shareholders.
The biggest technical challenge on the 2021 F1 cars has been adapting to the new aerodynamic regulations, with the introduction of several significant changes to key performance areas on the car.
“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,” said James 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.”
The aerodynamic changes have been a key focus in the development of the W12, but some of the parts on our new car are identical to the W11 owing to the new carryover rules. In some ways, this has lessened the peak of work required for the new car, but it’s also produced its own new challenges and difficulties.
Pirelli is introducing a new, more durable tyre this season, which teams trialled last year in Portimão, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. None of the teams have had a lot of experience with it and with only three days of pre-season testing this year, every lap on track will count to get up to speed with these new tyres.
“The tyre is a little slower, owing to the trade-off for more durability, but it is consistent and should give us trouble-free racing,” James said. “However, it will be an interesting competitiveness factor during 2021. Any time a tyre changes, it is always a learning race between the teams to find its sweet spot – where the new rubber gives its best performance.”
These different elements stack up to present a significant challenge for 2021 and make it far from a simple ‘carryover’ year. But while the 2021 season may be staring us in the face, we also have a team of people working on the extensive regulation changes for 2022.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the team this season will be working under the new cost cap regulations. The budgets of all F1 teams are capped at $145m for the 2021 season and this has required significant work behind the scenes to adapt to this new constraint. It’s also prompted the team to adapt its organisation, including the creation of Applied Science – the high-technology engineering arm of the business.
“The launch day of a new car is always a really exciting one,” said Lewis Hamilton. “It’s great to reveal to the world the result of everyone’s hard work at the factories and to see some of my team-mates in person, which has been so rare during the past year. I’ve been in touch with the engineers through the winter, keeping track of their preparations as I prepare myself for the season ahead. The excitement has been building and building, so now I just can’t wait to get out on track in the W12.”
“Obviously we haven’t been able to visit the factory much in the past year, so firstly, I’m really happy to be back here and to see the new car in person for the first time,” said Valtteri Bottas. “I’ve been getting regular updates on how things are progressing, so it’s nice to now be able to see the end result in the flesh and that just gets me more fired up for the new season. The cars are pretty similar to last year but there are some interesting aero changes that will have an impact on how the car handles and performs, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels on track in Bahrain.”