Technical de-brief with Aldo Costa and Andy Cowell
Aldo Costa on the W08:
Car development started last March with the concept of creating a base from which it is possible to develop long-term, the car for 2017 is therefore a lot more complex than anything they’ve had previously and has been completely re-designed for a much higher load in aerodynamics. Every part from 2016 has been reviewed and everything is brand new.
As for the emerging ‘suspension row’ Costa states that nothing has changed with the suspension, it is the same system raced in 2016 and as such was perfectly legal then so why change? His understanding is that one team has asked for clarification from the FIA on what is legal and there is no reason to believe that they should change what has already been declared legal at past events.
The team are not yet sure on the tyre situation for 2017. Whilst they tested the compounds for Pirelli and have the data on the compound family, they have no idea how they will run or what they will feel like, they do not know which of the compounds they tested for Pirelli are likely to be used.as they weren’t told what they were running.
The W08 was launched with a tiny engine cover fin, completely different to every other car that has been launched so far (Sauber, Force India, Renault). However larger fins will be tested at Barcelona during the two testing weeks in conjunction with new rear wings and potentially ‘every aero surface on the car’ indicating we could see a very different car when they line up on the Gris in Melbourne next month.
Lastly Aldo believes that the DRS effect will be increased for 2017 due to the wider wings, however the FIA may reduce DRS zones etc to compensate but that’s will very much be played-by-ear.
Andy Cowell On The W08 Powertrain.
Whilst Renault stated that they have started completely from scratch, Mercedes has taken a different approach with the base architecture remaining the same as in 2014, however everything has been replaced, improved and developed as time has gone on. So everything has changed from 2016 to 2017 ‘apart from the cables – although lengths and plugs have changed’.
Working in harmony with the chassis team at Brackley is absolutely key for the guys at High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth and creating a chassis / power train that works together perfectly has been the main focus. As reliability will be a massive factor in 2017 due to only having four power units per season. A lot of effort has gone into making the power train more powerful but also more efficient in terms of heat rejection and thermal efficiency. The 2017 cars will be at full throttle for more of the time and will be faster so this requires a lot of work on the load that the cars will endure. For example, last years cars were using much less than the 100kg of fuel permitted however it is very likely to be on the limit of the 105kg permitted for this year due to increased speed, weight and aero force.
Last year there were some high-profile failures including the potentially championship deciding bearing failure in Malaysia. Andy said he is confident that they have addressed that problem in particular with 6 specific changes just to the bearing system. Changes have also included complete reviews of how parts are designed, tested and approved to prevent failures throughout the car.
A potential big change too the regulations this year is also the removal of the token system, which restricted engine manufacturers to ‘buying upgrades’ with their token allocation. The aim of this regulation being to decrease development and eventually freeze engine development, however it was decided between all of the teams last year that this was no longer needed and as such it has been scrapped completely. Andy believes that the dismissal of the token system won’t really lead to a spending arms race because the tokens didn’t really reduce development but rather just change how and when developements will be implemented, which will still be the case as you will want to co-incide upgrades with your introduction of fresh power units anyway.
Lastly Andy was keen to stress the road relevance of this technology and told us that since 2009 with the AMG SLS Electric drive project there have been AMG engineers working within Brixworth and the engine department learning about the F1 technology and implementing that into road going AMG performance cars.