James F1 Allison Technical Director James Ellison in an interview with the team’s press service talked about how the new car was created – the Mercedes-AMG W11 EQ Performance, and how the work of engineers and designers will be built in the season when part of the forces will have to be spent on the 2021 project.
Question James, today we present our new Formula 1 car, Mercedes-AMG W11 EQ Performance. What did you focus on when working on this project?
James Allison: This year, the regulations have not changed much, so our main task was to make sure that we still manage to improve the car that worked very well last year. If we just continued to work on what we had in 2019, we would be able to achieve some progress, but, probably, the effectiveness of this work by now would already begin to decline. We wanted to change some aspects of the machine concept – those aspects that cannot be changed during the season – in order to get a more promising platform in the new season. We tried to make some carefully considered changes in order to maintain the pace of development even despite the fact that the current regulations have been in force for quite some time.
Question: Where exactly were these changes made?
James Allison: In addition to the usual development program that we implement in the winter, we made changes in three areas: one in the front, one in the middle, and one in the back. From the front, we introduced a structurally more complex design in the area of uprights and rims in order to achieve higher overall performance of the chassis. In the middle of the car, we followed the trend common among other teams, moving our upper side defensive structure to a lower position, which allowed us to achieve a certain advantage in the work of aerodynamics. At the rear of the car, we chose a bold suspension arrangement to make room for the development of aerodynamics. All three changes should be beneficial on their own, but their real effect is that they allow you to get a lot of secondary aerodynamic advantages both this winter, and, we hope, during the season.
Question What else have you done to improve the new car
James Allison: As always, we worked on every square millimeter of the machine to try to find an opportunity for improvement within these stable rules. We were rewarded for this with additional downforce that we could find in the time that has passed since the last race, which gives us confidence that the three changes that I spoke about will provide us with a good basis for further progress, which would be impossible with the machine 2019 year.
Question: Last year, the topic of aerodynamic efficiency was widely discussed. What steps have we taken in this direction?
James Allison: Aerodynamic efficiency is one of the most important topics in any season. The most aerodynamically efficient car on every single track is the one whose shape allows it to show the best lap time. Last year, the term “aerodynamic efficiency” was sometimes used incorrectly, implying that we are talking only about speed on straight lines. True efficiency is ensured by all components together, providing the highest level of downforce with the right level of drag.
Our work on aerodynamics, based on route simulations, is focused on achieving this, and we come to each route with the configuration that, in our opinion, is the most aerodynamically efficient for it. Since the regulations have not changed much, this year our car will have a very close to last year’s level of aerodynamic drag. What has changed is that our efforts over this winter allowed us to increase the aerodynamic efficiency of the car, thanks to which we get much more downforce at the same level of drag.
Question Last year’s car had difficulties in hot conditions. What have we done to level this effect?
James Allison: We have improved cooling systems. We have increased the area of the cooled surface – this is difficult to do during the season without incurring significant fines. But in the offseason, you can do this, and this will lead only to a slight increase in weight. In addition, the work done by HPP (the unit responsible for the development of power plants – approx. F1News.ru) helps us. They were able to increase the operating temperature of the engine, which will reduce the load on its cooling, because the higher the temperature of the liquids, the smaller the radiators you can use to cool them.
Question In 2021 we will see the biggest change in the regulations in the history of Formula 1. Will it affect the development of the current car
James Allison: None of the teams can ignore the scale of the changes that await us in 2021. Over the past few years, we have seen an unusually large number of significant changes in the regulations, but compared to what awaits us, they were all tiny. So we will certainly spend a lot of effort trying to find the best way to attack in 2021, but at the same time we will need to make sure that we will continue to play effectively in 2020. Managing these competing processes promises to be one of the most challenging tasks this year. One way or another, any Formula 1 team faces this dilemma every year, but in 2020 it will intensify due to large-scale changes imposed on us by the 2021 regulation.
Question What impact on the preparation for the season will have shorter winter tests
James Allison: If we have worked well on our projects and coped well with bench tests, then in six days of tests we can complete the entire training program. But if difficulties arise due to problems with reliability, then we will quickly get out of schedule, and before Melbourne we will have insufficient experience.
This forced us to make even more efforts to work as best as possible at the base this offseason and ensure that when we arrive on the track everything will work well. We all know very well that 12 months ago we were able to prove ourselves only on the eighth day of eight tests, and we will try not to repeat this experience!
Question: What role does the engine run in under such conditions?
James Allison: Break-in has always been important, but especially this year. This is our last chance before starting the winter tests to make sure that everything is in order. If during the break-in everything goes as it should, then in Barcelona we will have a good opportunity to roll the car out of the boxes at 9 a.m. and start winding circles. Since the tests are shorter this year, the importance of running in is increasing proportionally, so we intend to squeeze every drop from it!
Question: Without seeing other cars on the highway, it is difficult to say something about the level of competition this year. But still, what is your forecast for this?
James Allison: Last year we had a perfect start, we were able to provide confident leadership in the championship. Because of this, it was very difficult for our opponents to overtake us at a later stage of the season – although from the point of view of competitiveness, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing caught up with us in the second half of the season. We expect the 2020th to begin the same way as the 2019th, with the struggle of the three teams from the very beginning. We have no room for errors.
Question Last year, the car that we introduced initially was very different from the one we brought for the second week of tests in Barcelona. Will we see a similar evolution in the case of W11?
James Allison: No, this year everything will go according to a more standard scheme. We will bring updates for Melbourne for the second week of tests, but we will not introduce a new car, as in 2019. Last year, the rules have changed quite a lot, and the decision was made very late. In such circumstances, the presentation of one car and the launch of another by the second week of tests allowed us to get the most information before Melbourne. This year, the regulations have not changed much, we can build on the 2019 car, and it would not make sense to use last year’s approach.
Question: The new Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance will be the fastest Mercedes car in Formula 1 of all time. What does this mean for engineers?
James Allison: I love when cars set new records every season. We really like the fact that the records that have been standing for many years have been broken in the last two years, and the Formula 1 cars of the current generation have surpassed all previous achievements. I am a little sad to think that in this sense, 2020 is likely to be the highest point for the next few years, but as it goes, I will enjoy it.