2017 aero rules won’t catch Mercedes out – Brawn

2017 F1 season

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Former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is sure the team will not be caught out by the changes to the aerodynamic rules for 2017.

Speaking to the FIA publication Auto, Brawn described how he had instilled a discipline of making early preparations for regulations changes when he was in charge of the team.

Side-by-side: How the 2017 rules will change F1 design
“Mercedes will have been pulling resource off this year’s programme onto next year very early, once they saw where they were with the car,” he said.

“If I was there, and I’m sure they’ve carried on a similar philosophy, I’d be saying, ‘Right, we’ve got a strong car, let’s get everyone onto next year’s programme’. I don’t know how many other teams could do that. Success breeds success. Mercedes will be strong next year, despite the greater emphasis on chassis.”

Brawn said the team’s breakthrough campaign in 2014 was born when the Mercedes board sanctioned an increase in spending to take advantage of the V6 hybrid turbo rules change and the failure of the Resource Restriction Agreement.

“Mercedes’ 2014 success was actually born at the end of 2011, 2012 when we had a tough meeting with the board,” he explained. “They were either going to stop or they were going to step up, because 2010 and ’11 weren’t good enough.”

“We had been following the resource restriction philosophy, which was collapsing. We were 450 people and we were fighting teams that were 500 or 600 people, and there’s no solution to that. We said to the board: ‘Either we step up or we ought to step back because we’re in between at the moment’. The board, all credit to them, said: ‘OK, we’ll step up. We’ll give it a go. What do you need?'”

“So it was then that we put the project teams together for 2014. We hired Aldo Costa. We hired Geoff Willis. We hired the people we needed and it started to come together. That’s the strategic planning you need. You’ve got to have a vision of where you want to be in six, twelve months, a year, two years.”

However Brawn admitted the team had been tempted to focus more resources during 2013, when they won three races, instead of the following year’s car.

“Up until the summer break we were fighting with Red Bull for the championship, but I had a programme where resources were being moved across to the 2014 programme,” said Brawn.

“My judgement now is that Red Bull didn’t do that because they came back after the summer break with a car that was a lot faster, so they must have kept an effort going on that existing car or else they had more resources than we had! However, the consequence of that was that they began 2014 on the back foot. Having the opportunity and the conviction to make the call [on which fights to pick] is essential.”

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Keith Collantine
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27 comments on “2017 aero rules won’t catch Mercedes out – Brawn”

  1. Why would they? By all accounts, the last two times the formula changed drastically (2009 and 2014), that team were top by quite a margin.

    They’ve been ahead by so much in the last three years that they could almost focus entirely on 2017 from the start of this year, when it was clear they would dominate again.

    Of course, that’s not to say that another team, probably Red Bull, won’t give them a run for their money… we can only hope…

    1. @ben-n On the other hand, every time the formula changed drastically (1998, 2009 and 2014) a different team than the previous years became dominant.

      1. @matthijs At least 1989 showed a precedent of that not happening.

  2. It would be hard to disagree with that. RB caught up with Merc in the latter period of this year. How much of that was down to Merc moving on to next year? They had the title in the bag early on with a 1.5sec/lap advantage. So why keep developing the car when you know that you will still enjoy an advantage at the end of the year. It might only be 0.5sec/lap instead of 1.5 seconds, but it is still a big advantage.
    I bet Merc will still be the car to beat next year and by an decent advantage. No wonder Bottas wants the seat..

    1. @Mick, everyone wants the seat…

      1. … except Nico. :)

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      19th December 2016, 14:16

      We’ll have to wait to see how the rule changes work – it all depends if F1 is still won by having the best factory engine or whether things like aero actually matter next year.

      I think Mercedes might struggle if aero is more important. They haven’t been challenged by any other teams so may not have pushed this area as much as they should have. Also, they have shown that they aren’t great at strategy calls – luckily for them, they’ve only had to try and orchestrate boring races between their two drivers but if they are going to have to fight other teams, I think they will struggle.

      The Mercedes has been designed over several years to be a car that drives in clean air in front. Their engine and the rules that go along with it has meant they haven’t needed to think about following other cars. If they are going to have to actually race this season, they’ll have to have quite a big re-design.

      1. You think any team designs a car so its only quick in clean air? They design the car to be as quick as possible period.

        They only seemed a lot slower in traffic simply because they were in traffic. Other cars further down the order perhaps didn’t seem to be affected as much because they simply didn’t have as much down force to be messed up by dirty air to start with.

        It’s a myth.

      2. Lol, Mercedes struggling with aero is a Myth.

    3. i think Red Bull will be the team to beat next year as they were the ones who orchestrated these rules for 2017.i bet they already starting to work for 2017 car before the design of the car is being finalized in february 2016.

  3. It is always great to have this sort of insight, especially when it comes from Ross Brawn.

    However is assumption in the last paragraph is not that easy to make. RB and Renault made a joint effort, but we don’t know how independently their developments program are run. And in all fairness at the beginning of the 2014’s season, the mains struggles came from the Renault engine, which even today it still far from the Mercedes, which in turn exacerbated the dominance enjoyed by Mercedes.

    Next year I expect Mercedes to be the team to beat again, but as soon as RB/Renault start to bring new developments I expect them to at least close the gap, maybe even catch them up.

    The focus might change, but the engine will still be very important.

  4. petebaldwin (@)
    19th December 2016, 14:11

    Seriously Ross? Red Bull struggled in 2014 because they developed the 2013 car too much? Really????

    They could have a 100% optimum F1 car and it would have lost because it didn’t have a Mercedes engine in the back!

    1. Seriously. Newey said as much himself. The Mercedes engine was better, but the 2014 RB was a disaster at the start of the season regardless.


      1. I was amazed at the time that Red Bull kept developing the 2013 car as long as they did. Particularly as that article that @repete86 linked noted that Vettel had a 42-point lead over Raikkonen heading into the summer break. Also, Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes had all switched their focus to 2014 at that stage too.

        If Brawn left any legacy at Brackley, I hope for their sake that it was his ability to see the big picture and plan ahead.

    2. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
      19th December 2016, 18:27

      Yup, It’s just resource allocation. Finite resource means they have to choose whether they concentrate on current year harder or can develop following years’ car earlier in their process timeline

    3. Well, that explains why Williams and Force India finished ahead of Red Bull in 2014.

      Oh wait. They didn’t.

      That suggests the engine wasn’t the only reason Mercedes was faster than Red Bull in 2014.

  5. I’ve been afraid about this since Hungary.
    They won with a 30+ sec lead to the nearest Red Bull on a track which was supposed to fit their car. And even then Red Bull were nearly beaten by Ferrari that race. And the only reason they ever came close at Singapore was differing strategies. I don’t believe for one bit Merc will drop the ball on chassis development.

  6. For the sake of the sport some team needs to challenge Mercedes next year. If Merc are over a second a lap faster than any other car next season… we have to deal with the unexciting Bottas vs Hamilton’s rivalry.

    2017 has the potential of being one of the most boring seasons in F1 history. It’s sad that they didn’t at least put a more competitive driver alongside Lewis to hedge their bets against any other team challenging the Mercs.

  7. 2013 was the year Sebastian won the last 9 races of the season in a row IIRC. I doubt Reb Bull were developing the car unto the very end.

    1. He didn’t say “unto the very end”. The fact they won tjhose last 9 races in a row is exactly the point that Brawn was making. It would indicate they were the only team still developing their 2013 car midway through the season.

  8. My bet is Red Bull and Merc will be close. The engines ought to have converged and apparently they both have similarly ultra-sophisticated simulators and development tools. We haven’t had the definite word about Lowe have we? That might be the factor that lets RBR close right up.

    Ferrari will win 2017 for sure tho, assuming they’ve met Sergio’s targets ;)

  9. Great! Several more years seeing the 2 Merc drivers drive off into the distance. This needs to be fixed and soon or F1 will perish.

  10. His assessment seems to be right. Frankly, the importance of engine is not as much as we would like to believe. It was in 2014 for sure when the hybrid was new. But as the formula becomes older, solutions converge (whether it be aero or engine).

    If we see from 2014 to 2016, the difference between teams running same engine has kept on becoming bigger (Merc-Williams gap has increased, Ferrari-Sauber gap has increased, Renault-red Bull gap has increased). This indicates that different engines are actually converging and the increasing difference is now because of aerodynamics.

    Mercedes dominance has increased in 2016 thanks to aero and given that 2017 puts more focus on aero, they have no reason to be scared.

  11. It’s quite insightful how he basically boils down the success to an increase in funding from the board in the first place.

    “We were 450 people and we were fighting teams that were 500 or 600 people, and there’s no solution to that.”

    The sheer scale of F1 amazes me. If Liberty are indeed successful in returning that resource restriction philosophy it will definitely be interesting to see how that affects the competition.

    As for next year who knows really, it’s the opportunity for any team to have some significant breakthrough or interpretation within the rules that is most exciting I think.

  12. Really waiting for 2017 season.

  13. It’s not only the aero change for 2017, but also the exity of the token system. So the engine suppliers can make a brand new power unit.

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