How Mercedes revived an old suspension “trick” to increase speed


Described as a device to help lower the W12 at high speeds, it should be pointed out that the discussion actually centered on a well-known suspension “trick” that has worked in Formula 1 for a number of years, rather that a new device which suddenly appeared on the car as it could have been encountered.

Plus, it’s not just Mercedes that uses this trick, as most of the grille uses this clever rear suspension manipulation in some form or another to lower the car in a non-linear fashion in order to ‘stall’ the car. ground and diffuser and reduce downforce and drag for increased straight-line speed.

That said, it’s not something that is going to have the same effect for every team, given the variation in aerodynamic concepts along the grid, and it won’t have the same advantage on every circuit, as the teams will have specific support packages for medium and weak support circuits.

This means that while the non-linear movement of the W12’s rear suspension seemed more evident in Turkey, it was due to the fact that the team were able to steer the car in a more specific way, so as not to reduce downforce for high-speed cornering but “wedging” the floor, diffuser and rear spoiler in the straights.

Since the Circuit of the Americas has a very different high-speed setup than Istanbul Park, the same straight-line speed increase could not be achieved by Mercedes as it had been in several others. races this season, and has led to the top the speed gap between the German team and Red Bull being much narrower.

And, while Red Bull’s concern over this straight-line speed advantage has grown in recent races, the team also worried about the hidden consequences of Mercedes’ ability to use a downforce setup. higher and take advantage of the advantage this offers in forward turns by eliminating the additional drag it would normally create on the straights.

Game changer

The most interesting tale in this story is that while Mercedes has been able to exploit this suspension trick for a number of years, it appears that the new regulations have handicapped its use in the opening phase of the season.

The introduction of an upgrade package to the British Grand Prix, however, appears to have been the catalyst for its renewed top speed advantage.

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 side axle spoiler floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The aerodynamic update (pictured above, depicted below), centered on the belly of the car, appears to have made the car less difficult and easier for the team to find the car’s sweet spot in performance. a range of conditions, thus making it also easier to tune that suspension “thing” on different tracks.

1. The front vertical deflector was cut, which in turn allowed the Venetian blind type slats to be extended forward

2. The main vertical deflector was also detached from the wing of the leading edge of the pontoon, removing the arched section that previously framed the shoulder of the pontoon.

3-4. The ‘wave’ floor section that had been a towering feature on the W12 since the start of the season has also been adjusted.

5. The single, more prominent ground roll has been replaced with a pair of rollers instead.

6-7. Eight angled fins have been added, of course to correct the airflow that moves around the pontoon.

After all, before that, the team had been largely forced to reduce their downforce levels not only to meet the conditions and characteristics of the track, but also to keep Red Bull close at hand.

Rear wing deflection test

Rear wing deflection test

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It’s also worth pointing out that other factors have also impacted the relative success of this nonlinear suspension trick, such as the new FIA-defined load and deflection test guidelines for the rear wing introduced at the Grand. Price from France.

This reduced the effectiveness of the flex wings that the teams used as another method to improve their straight-line speed performance. With the resetting of the limits, this changed the order of competition a bit and forced the teams to rethink their downforce levels for the given circuits.

No new tips

While being able to see this rear suspension trick in action made for an interesting tale, it’s worth remembering that very little in Formula 1 is really new, with the same core ideas re-appropriated in order to get around regulations that would erode it. otherwise their advantage.

After all, the current solution may have been used in this form for several seasons with varying degrees of success, but only after teams found ways to maintain the effect following the change in regulations by the FIA. or to the prohibition of FRIC which also sought to create an effect.

Mercedes W04 FRIC layout, fully detailed system
Introducing the 1991 Williams FW14 active suspension

It’s a trick that also predates the modern interpretation of the suspension, with Adrian Newey even citing the use of the same trick when Williams had an active suspension in the ’90s.

“The other thing I noticed in the wind tunnel results was that at very low ride heights the resulting diffuser stall reduced the car’s drag.

“So we added a button on the steering wheel that when pushed and held down lowers the rear ride height. Drivers have used it where they had power, rather than limited grip (typically in straight lines). a first version of DRS “.

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