Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Mercedes has more than just aerodynamic upgrades coming for 2021 car

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ upgrade plan for its 2021 car involves more than just new aerodynamic parts, the team has confirmed.

The world champions’ strategy for developing the W12 was cast into doubt following the Styrian Grand Prix weekend, where Lewis Hamilton and CEO Toto Wolff indicated no further upgrades were coming.

But earlier this week technical director James Allison confirmed new parts are still in the pipeline for this year’s car. Chief strategist James Vowles yesterday gave more detail about their plans to develop the W12 as they bid to catch championship leaders Red Bull.

“This package has a number of ways that we can improve it,” Vowles explained in a video released by Mercedes. “We still have more performance that we can add to it and aerodynamic improvements are just one facet of car performance. We have other elements of this car that we can add performance to and we are continuously doing so.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Mercedes ran a steep rear wing last weekend…
“Furthermore, you can always optimise and improve the package you have. You don’t normally extract everything out of it from the word go. Every time you run on track [you] get more and more information and data, you learn a little bit more about how to use the car, how to use the tyres and how to optimise the package together.

“The result of that is that yes in terms of big aerodynamic upgrades, will they be reduced for us, but not just us, all teams this year? I suspect so. However, that doesn’t mean that the car performance will be static.”

Vowles believes Mercedes’ pace disadvantage to Red Bull at the Styrian Grand Prix was partly due to the characteristics of the track, notably its higher altitude than most venues.

A particular area of concern for Mercedes, which Hamilton has repeatedly noted, is Red Bull’s superior straight-line speed. The team believes it was losing around a quarter of a second per lap on the straights to Red Bull last weekend.

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Their rivals have run visibly flatter rear wings recently, reducing drag at high speed. Vowles said Mercedes have equivalent wings available but believe using them at tracks like the Red Bull Ring would not offer the gains they need.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
…while Red Bull’s was noticeably thinner
“We have a suite of rear wings available to us, as do Red Bull and as do other teams on the grid,” he explained.

“You could have less rear wing and go faster [in a] straight line but you would be sacrificing cornering performance and that also comes with effects on degradation. Conversely, less rear wing allows you, perhaps, to overtake a little bit more, there is a balance.

“We use simulation tools to run through all of the rear wing settings that we have available to us and come up with an optimum of what we should be running at this track. What we should be running for both overtaking, qualifying and race and in our case, it comes out with the rear wing setting that you see.”

Vowles said the differences between the rear ride height on the Red Bull to the Mercedes allows them to run the flatter wing without sacrificing cornering performance.

“Where we are running on rear wing is optimal for lap time and ultimately that is what both qualifying and really the race is all about,” he said.

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2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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40 comments on “Mercedes has more than just aerodynamic upgrades coming for 2021 car”

  1. I was hoping to read about the introduction of a new oil.

  2. Broccoliface
    1st July 2021, 8:40

    You’re trying too hard

  3. @noname Do people still think these floor changes came for hampering any specific team, even though they were solely for helping Pirelli?

  4. I want Mercedes to make a small gain in performance. It would be a shame to see Mercedes lack performance as compared to Red Bull.. as a proper fight between Max and Lewis till the end of the season will be exciting. Really looking forward to a season where the driver makes a bigger difference. 2018 was the last season where we had two competitively matched cars, but not two competitively matched drivers. 2021 looks like it actually has the potential to have both.

    1. Wait before saying merc are behind, austria is a thing, silverstone, spa and monza are another.

    2. Agree about 2018, only lacking thing was ferrari’s top driver.

      1. Ferrari would have been happy if that was the only thing. For one, their other driver was also a world champion and he provided little value to the campaign. Worse, Ferrari’s technical updates were so stunningly bad that the team finally accepted they had to take months worth of ‘upgrades’ off to keep the car somewhat competitive ( https://www.racefans.net/2018/10/22/vettel-ferrari-removed-four-months-of-upgrades-from-car/ ). Their strategy calls were also questionable, with Vettel frequently having to fight his teammate Räikkönen on track for no discernible reason (Germany was bad, but Italy was worst).

        While Ferrari was somewhat competitive throughout the first half of 2018, Mercedes left a lot of points too, making it closer than it would have been otherwise. And as we’re seeing this year, when a driver is trying to pushing every bit of performance out of the car, mistakes are made. In his battles with Verstappen, Hamilton has given away a lot of points this year already, and it’s not even halfway through. Including a full 25 points in Azerbaijan. Vettel’s 2018 German GP mishap was a setback, but it was far from the only thing wrong with Ferrari that season.

    3. Remember that Mercedes since Monza did four races with “controversial” (aka illegal) rims with holes that they had to took off in Austin to avoid protests from other teams. This and the lack of Ferrari working updates after the summer were the decisive factor in that wdc, when vettel had a good car he was indeed the lead driver

      1. @manto I thought that they were cleared as being legal in the end, but merc just didn’t want to risk it seeing as they were on the verge of winning both championships

        1. Nope, FIA declared them as partially illegal (whatever that means) and Merc took em off to avoid protests by ferrari or rb, but they won four races with an illegal component

    4. @todfod

      not two competitively matched drivers

      If 2018 wasn’t competitive, why is 2021? So far Hamilton has already collected numerous mistakes. He was lucky to escape a DNF at Imola, had an all round bad weekend in Monaco, threw away a win in Azerbaijan, and was beaten by Verstappen in France and Austria with relative ease. Mercedes is very lucky that Pirelli snatched Verstappen’s win in Azerbaijan, because otherwise he’d be on five wins and three second places – a much stronger record than Hamilton has this year.

      That’s not to say it can’t change between the two of them, but as of now Verstappen has a clear edge.

      1. @cashnotclass – It’s fairly simple for me. If you’re going at 80% like Hamilton has had to for the last few years, it’s easy to be consistent. If you push a little harder on one lap, you’re at 81% and there are no issues.

        This year Hamilton has to be very near 100% in order to beat Max and when you do that, pushing a little bit too hard means you hit 101% and you go off. Suddenly Max looks composed and is no longer making mistakes and that’s because he doesn’t have to push everything to the edge to win.

        1. Or that Verstappen is already quite used to pushing at 100% @petebaldwin

  5. Yes, I also would rather see Mercedes with Lewis and Bottas cruise to yet another WDC and WCC. Why change the past 8 years while the the boys were clearly having such fun, unthreatened. It has been a great sport to watch, superfun and well deserved for Lewis too.

    1. ian dearing
      1st July 2021, 9:39

      I also hope Max doesn’t cruise to an easy WDC and WCC. Not that I have any problem with Max; I just can’t put up with the same posters who complained about Hams 7 easy championships complaining about Max’s easy one as well. Or worse still; if Ham pips Max at the post having to be told over the next few years that Ham cruised to another unthreatening WDC in 2021 with no real opposition. That’s assuming these posters remain consistent in their criticism?

      1. And similarly, it’ll be interesting if the other set of posters remain consistent with their praise. Surely if you beat the “GOAT”, either you must be pretty good yourself or the “GOAT” isn’t what he once was? Having said that, we’re already seeing comments like “the FIA changed the rules to hamper Mercedes” to try and make excuses for it so perhaps not….

      2. Cruise? Very little’ chance of Red Bull avoiding engine penalties after ‘brutal’ run of crashes, says Horner

        Reply moderated
      3. Sorry ignore my reply

        Reply moderated
  6. They do? Who would have thought!

    1. Yes, usually wolff is very honest, who would’ve thought he’d have lied on something like this, certainly not me.

      1. Coventry Climax
        1st July 2021, 11:57

        No, Wolff actually meant ‘updates’, which is ofcourse a completely different word than ‘upgrades’.

        1. But it is a completely different word. Updates enhance, whereas upgrades replace.

          1. Correct, its a big difference from
            apt-get update
            to
            apt-get upgrade

      2. @esploratore1 – People within Mercedes rarely contradict Wolff… Their lies are team-wide and are well orchestrated.

        i wonder if Mercedes are in fact, not planning to do many updates this year however they want Red Bull to keep pushing to take their time away from the 2022 car? If Mercedes are done with developing the 2021 car, Red Bull could do the same knowing they’re already on top. As long as they’re worried Mercedes might bring an update, they have to keep developing in order to remain in front…

        Perhaps the pressure got to Toto and for once, he actually told the truth? Hamilton tends to wear his heart on his sleeve and tells it like it is when he’s not happy. He seemed to suggest there was no talk of upgrades so I’d be more tempted to believe what he says. You don’t just suddenly say “ok – let’s improve the car.” Parts take time to develop and if Mercedes have suddenly decided to start that process, they’ll be behind Red Bull who will already have parts in development.

        1. @petebaldwin I don’t believe for a second that RBR would be persuaded one way or the other by anything they hear from Mercedes. I think both teams have to act under the assumption that both of them are continuing to try to improve their car. Neither will be sitting on their hands and neither will be taking to heart what the other says.

          To me Max and Horner particularly have seemed to only talk about keeping their nose to the grindstone and always being wary of Mercedes potential, while it is TW and LH that have shed the doubt on themselves with their talk of no upgrades, and now upgrades, and/or budgets restricting them, and/or of the timing and degree of focus on the new car. All the while trying to put the focus on RBR’s wing, and RBR’s tire pressures, and RBR’s high rake, and RBR’s ‘upgraded’ engine.

          Personally I think it is more Max and Horner that can be believed for they seem to be just talking about the here and now and that they are assuming nothing. And interestingly it is Mercedes that are on their back foot for now seemingly scrambling with the car and scrambling verbally to the media, whereas the leaders are just proceeding along and not trying to fool anyone. They’re just showing their work on the track. And I have no doubt they are plenty focused on next year as well.

  7. Still I doubt that they’ll catch them.
    I read today that RBR has so much grip and torque that they can climb a vertical mountain.

    1. While I won’t give anything for sure, red bull is indeed usually good at developping, merc level or so, unlike ferrari.

  8. “Mercedes has more than just aerodynamic upgrades coming for 2021 car”

    ….Is it George Russell shaped?

    1. Ahah, that’s a good one, one can hope, and that’s as someone who hates mercedes, just think russel deserves a chance in a top team.

  9. So these were already developed and ready to use, I still think they were caught out by RB’s leap in performance. I suspect Merc waited to see how RB went before committing to production of these new parts, Saving $$$ I would say.
    So now has RB shown their hand or do they still have a bit left to bring out?

  10. If we are allowed to believe other F1 sites, Lewis is actually going to put an effort in this season. He has been in the simulator, which in previous year he called a waste of his time that didn’t add anything. He will be doubling up his efforts working with the engineers, implying he has been leaving work on the table.

    But it’s possibly all too little, too late.

    Im very glad this isn’t a repeat from the previous 7 seasons, but the FIA really dropped the ball in the hybrid era.

    Reply moderated
    1. The thing about Hamilton being in the simulator was reported here on Monday:

      https://www.racefans.net/2021/06/28/wacky-set-up-direction-may-have-hurt-mercedes-race-pace/

  11. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    1st July 2021, 12:43

    *pretends to be shocked*

  12. What he’s saying is that it’s all about the difference in rake, and how it’s more pronounced at altitude here.

    It will be interesting to see what Mercedes do about their rake on the new ’22 car. IMO it’s even possible that they will have changed the whole concept after the lessons of this season realizing their engine advantage is diminishing and the floor ground effect reduced.

    1. @balue Well of course the cars will be entirely different next year, so I’m not even sure if rake will come into it. I could be wrong of course but just speaking in generalities I think the goal with ground effects cars is to keep the air under the car trapped there in order to create the vacuum underneath and suck the car down. But of course the diffuser is going to be vastly different than now, and likely ultra important, and who knows maybe somehow high rake or low rake will still be options and one might be better than the other. Somehow though I’m just envisioning that all the cars will be low rake to retain the air underneath for as long as possible. The concept pictures we have seen seem to show them as being quite hugged to the ground including at the back. Will be fascinating to see everyone’s take on it though.

  13. So at the end of three wild days of guesses and discussions it seems that everything is going to be exactly the same as it has always been? Upgrades to the car AND developing a new one for next year? That’s revolutionary.
    Oh well, the internet forums are happy.

  14. So, Monaco is special, Baku is special, Austria is special. Are there any other special tracks for Mercedes? Is Silverstone too flat? Is Spa too steep?

    1. @jimg Yeah it’s almost like Red Bull simply has the faster car since winter testing. And with their reliability upgrade, Honda has more engine power too since they brought this upgrade so the advantage for Red Bull only got bigger.

      Staggering though that with a bit better button placement, Hamilton would have easily won in Baku and would have been in the lead

      1. Without his many errors he could be on top for several races.. but that’s not how it works.
        It shows the Merc has enough power to beat the RB
        But there still is some difference in drivers.

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