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Introducing W12, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team’s 2021 challenger!

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team unveils its 2021 car, as excitement builds for the new Formula One season ..


The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance builds on the solid base of its predecessor but includes considerable aerodynamic changes alongside improvements to areas as such as the suspension, cooling system and Power Unit. The black base livery remains for a second season, to underline the team’s commitment to improving diversity and inclusion within the team and our sport, with elements of the traditional racing silver incorporated alongside increased visibility for Mercedes-AMG.


Toto Wolff: “Our scepticism and hunger drive us and get us fired up for every new season – because the scoreboard goes to zero and there’s always more performance to be found. And that’s exciting.”


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 our closer alignment to the Mercedes-AMG performance division in the future. ‘E PERFORMANCE’ is the new technology label that will be used in product names and badges on all forthcoming Mercedes-AMG performance hybrid cars – which feature direct cascade technology from F1 and, in particular, the work of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth.


The team’s closer cooperation with AMG is also reflected in the new 2021 livery, with AMG branding replacing the star pattern on the engine cover which now fades to Mercedes’ traditional racing silver from the black base livery introduced in 2020. The most prominent colour remains the iconic green of Title Partner PETRONAS on the front and rear wings, nose, mirrors and halo, with the parallel green and silver stripes on the flanks of the car symbolising more than a decade of partnership between Mercedes and PETRONAS. The visual identity is completed by the burgundy of team shareholder and Principal Partner INEOS, which features on the airbox and the inside of the front wing endplates. The result is a striking and distinctive look for the season ahead.


Significant aero changes for the 2021 season

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.”

That has been a significant challenge for our designers, trying to claw back performance from these regulation changes. The four key modifications to the floor are:

  • A triangular cut-out on the edge of the floor, in front of the rear wheels.

  • Reducing the span of the rear brake duct winglets, by a few centimetres.

  • Reducing the height of the two inboard strakes nearest the car centreline in the diffuser.

  • Sealing up the slots in the floor around the bargeboards.

The aerodynamic changes have been a key focus in the development of the W12, but some of the parts on the 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.


“What’s carried over will look different from team to team, because the rules didn’t require you to carry over the same things,” explained 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.


“In addition, there are some parts of the car that you can change token-free, for example the Power Unit, the cooling systems, the suspension and of course all of the aerodynamic surfaces. We have spent our tokens, but we won’t reveal how we used them just yet. That’ll become clear in good time. Once the racing gets underway, pretty much everything under the skin of the car must then be frozen for the entire year. With the specific permission of the FIA, you can make changes for reliability or cost saving, but if part of your car isn’t performing well, then you are stuck with it for the whole season.”


The significant aerodynamic changes to the floor and adapting to the carryover rules have kept the team busy, but there are opportunities for improvement in many areas of the car, and our engineers have been working tirelessly to find an edge.


Pirelli has also introduced 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.


Finding the edge with the Power Unit

Developing the new M12 Power Unit, Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains have been chasing every possible improvement to deliver a step forward when it hits the track in all eight of the cars it will power this season. The hunt for every ounce of performance possible in the Power Unit has been emphasised even further by the regulation changes for 2021, which allow only a single performance specification of hardware rather than introducing upgrades at different points throughout the season.


There’s also been an increased production workload with McLaren joining the stable of customer teams, which has presented an exciting challenge over at Brixworth over the past few months. It’s the first time a McLaren has been powered by Mercedes since the conclusion of the 2014 season.


Working under the cost cap

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.


Driver line-up stability for a fifth consecutive season

While the world around us and the environment we are working in are constantly changing, we enjoy stability in the team’s driver line-up for the 2021 season with Lewis and Valtteri entering their fifth season as team-mates. Both are looking forward to getting back in the cockpit after the winter break, which included intense winter training programmes.


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