Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Black livery doesn’t make car run hotter – Mercedes

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes has shed light on a possible side-effect of their switch to a black livery on their 2020 Formula 1 car.

The team replaced its traditional silver paintwork with a black base colour to promote its ‘end racism’ livery from the first race of the season last weekend. Darker colours absorb more heat than lighter shades, but the team’s strategy director James Vowles said this hasn’t had an effect on the car’s performance.

“Inside the engine cover there’s actually a silver lining, a heat resistant lining, and that is in place irrespective of the outside colour,” he explained in a video released by Mercedes.

“But we can’t see any difference on our radiator temperatures or other temperatures of core systems within the car as the result of the paint colour externally. There’s a little bit more reflection that should exist really with a lighter colour, but the reality is, it has negligible effects or no effects on our system temperatures.”

The team ran its controversial Dual Axis Steering system on its W11 for the first time in a race at the Red Bull Ring. Vowles said the team won’t have a full understanding of its benefit to the car until they have used it at other events.

“It worked as we would have hoped it would work,” he said, “in other words the drivers used it during the course of the race weekend, they used it in the race, they used it in qualifying, they used it in free practice.

“The reality behind it though is you don’t fully understand the potential of the system until you have operated it at multiple circuits, so we have an understanding of how it benefited us here but not necessarily how we can use it going forward at all events in order to get the most out of it.

“That learning will come, especially as we transition to other circuits and see how it performs elsewhere. But thus far, we’re very happy with how it has performed.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Black livery doesn’t make car run hotter – Mercedes”

  1. Shocking fact!
    Which has been a total mystery, even with millions of black cars driving in hottest climates without blowing up…

  2. I recall, from school Physics, that a black body radiates heat more effectively than a silver body.

    1. “Inside the engine cover there’s actually a silver lining”

      ….that’s exactly what McLaren are hoping for next year!

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th July 2020, 14:33

      it will make the outer body temperature hotter when direct sunlight hits it, but cooling on the inside shouldn’t be effected in the slightest while running.

    3. It depends.
      An object may be visually black but reflect or disperse infrared radiation.
      Most paints don’t reflect much infrared so they are ‘black’ to heat even if they are bright white to light.
      Polished metals often do reflect heat, they mirror heat as well als light.

      1. Visible light is just as much ‘heat’ as infrared is. In terms of solar radiation, visible light will warm things just as much as infrared will.

        You are correct in that some black paints are infrared reflective, even if they seem dark to our eyes. Of course, though, because of the above, a paint that is reflective to both visible light and infrared will heat up even less.

  3. Ah, they should have gone all the way and coated it in Vantablack for that ‘black hole’ look. And if they were worried about even more heat absorption, add a layer of Starlite under it. Rather off-topic, but both materials have amazing stories:

  4. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    8th July 2020, 15:14

    Did people really believe that having a black car might cause them overheating problems? Clutching at straws in the hope of a non-Mercedes victory now.

    1. This.

      Black absorbs more heat, but not enough to stop Mercedes.

      1. @rocketpanda
        Wouldn’t the same heat principles apply to cars with darker liveries anyway? Like Hass, Renault and say Redbull?

    2. I also thought there’s potential for the drivers to be hotter too. Whether it’s a noticeable difference (I’m sure they are very warm anyway) is another matter.

    3. While the outside of the car has changed the cooling system of the car would be more important to keeping the engine temperature within the optimum operating range (from looking at the on board cameras on other F1 cars it appears to be about 80 degrees) and that didn’t need to be changed. Traditionally radiators are black. I guess the reason is black is supposed to radiate heat better. Looking at images of the W10 and W11 one can’t see the radiators, suggesting that if they are visible to the camera then they are most likely black, so the colour of the radiators hasn’t changed. The new colour scheme would make a difference when the engine is cold and the car was outside in the sun, especially if it was parked outside in the sun for several hours without the heaters turned on , but once the heaters had warmed up the engine in preparation for running the engine the new colours would start to become insignificant, and once the engine has been started the new colour scheme would definitely be insignificant. I know this is just speculation, but I think the engine would produce far more heat accelerating out of a corner than the black colour would for the entire race.

  5. I generally only wear light colored cycling jerseys because on a blazing hot day you can feel the difference versus a black jersey right on your back. But my body is not generating nearly as much heat as an F1 car. The net effect on cooling for the F1 car has to be negligible. The difference versus silver paint would be like tossing an ice cube into a furnace.

  6. Well it didn’t affect the other Merc did it? Looking for excuses for #44 I think.

  7. probably doesn’t make a noticeable difference in this case, but color does affect temperature. That’s why cruise ships and airlines are mostly painted white. The most famous case was how the concord’s speed was limited because of the extra heat when Pepsi paid to have it painted blue.

    1. Ian Stephens
      9th July 2020, 22:50

      Was this also why the BA livery had a white area at the front of the tail where other aircraft were blue?

      1. could have been. I doubt the logos were too much of a concern, just the overall color.

        this is what i found when i did a quick google to refresh my memory. I didn’t remember the part about the wings being white.

        According to the story, Air France had to contact the builders of the Concorde to ask if the painting could be done. They got permission for the main fuselage but were denied to paint the wings anything but white. This was due to fears of the stored fuel heating up during the flight.

        As the paint was a darker color, it would interfere with the heat radiation as the aircraft flew at supersonic speeds. Over 20 minutes and the fuselage would have been heated up to beyond its limits. Plus, it is likely that the paint itself would have melted or could even have combusted.

  8. Well said Dan Rook i almost mist that!!!

  9. “Black livery doesn’t make car run hotter”

    No, but it looks a lot hotter!

  10. tony mansell
    9th July 2020, 13:38

    Black livery matters.

    It would seem not.

  11. Ian Stephens
    9th July 2020, 23:00

    Could Mercedes gain a minute forward propulsion by painting the car silver at the front and black at the back, like Crooke’s radiometer?

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