Don’t write them off: New Mercedes W04 technical analysis
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Feb 2013   |  7:43 pm GMT  |  77 comments

Mercedes rolled out its new car today, the F1 W04. A lot of work has gone into this car, especially around the cockpit area and on thermal management. We are yet to see what they have in mind on the front and rear wings, but it looks like a lot of careful detailed work has been carried out by Aldo Costa and his team, so here is our analysis of what’s been done and what it will mean for Mercedes’ chances this year.


Mercedes went down a high tech route last year with the double DRS and paid a price for that. This year, it looks like they have a more traditional aerodynamic concept.

They are playing catch up, but it is certainly possible over the next ten months for them to close the gap on the front runners. It’s early days and we’ve not seen any times, but with the drivers they have and the resources they have at Brackley, it would be a mistake to write them off this year. Certainly they should be aiming at winning some races.

Until we get to the business end of testing it will be hard to see exactly at what level they start the season relative to the Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus cars.

The car in detail: Front wing

Mercedes say that the car is based around “a new five element front wing”, but this is puzzling, as what was on the car today was the same as Brazil. Clearly they are not going to show all their goodies in Round One.

The nose has been reshaped and features a vanity panel over the step, but the one shown today on the track is otherwise similar to last year; the under nose and turning vane are the same.

Based on what we saw today, it looks like least work has been done on front. So we expect to see that updated as the tests go on.

One vital area of change is the front and rear wheel rims, in terms of spoke geometry. They have updated the wheel nuts too. This might seem very trivial but it’s important on two counts: it looks like they are aiming at faster pit stops (like Ferrari), but also they have done a lot of work on thermal efficiency and this tells us a lot about this new car, as we shall see.

Cockpit area

This is all completely new, a lot of work has been done in this area. From the roll hoop, all the way to the floor, the bargeboards, everything is new. There is a lot more detail here than on previous Mercedes F1 cars and this is where the car is much more “sophisticated” than the 2012 model, as Ross Brawn put it.

It is interesting to see how closed are the side pod openings. The Mercedes engine needs quite a bit of cooling, relative to the Renault, for example, but this Mercedes has an aggressive cooling treatment.

There is a surprising amount of detail just below the cockpit opening; a three element cascade bolted onto the chassis, working with side pod turning vanes. There is a lot of intricate work to clean up the air flow around and over the side pods. The roll hoop geometry has changed, it’s less triangular, they have got rid of additional entrances.

They have worked a lot on thermal management because there is a lot of performance to be gained in the hotter races when you normally have to start opening up the bodywork for cooling, which loses you a lot of downforce, especially at the rear. To have the baseline improved could give them a nice gain in the hotter races.

Rear end
The rear of the car has been tidied up and looks cleaner. The bodywork has been closed down quite a bit, but the temperatures in Jerez now are lower than they will be in races like Bahrain. The car today ran with a lot of temperature sensors on the car. It’s likely that this car is much more efficient in the higher temperatures than it has been in the past.

This is really important; if you have a weak cooling package, you are forced to open up bodywork at the rear of the car and this leads to rear end aero instability. This is one of the Renault engine’s strong points; Red Bull, Williams, Lotus and Caterham can get away with less cooling than rival teams.

The rear looks cleaner, but doesn’t look revolutionary; the Coke Bottle at the rear has been cleaned up, the engine cover is pulled in slightly.

The rear brake caliper position has been changed, partly for weight but mainly for cooling reasons.

You want to get the heat out of the rear tyres as much as possible during races, to keep them cool. Last year’s Mercedes went through its rear tyres too quickly in races.

This will have been first order priority when updating the car for 2013. Work has been done on the wheel rims and other parts of the rear corner, to get the heat out of there as quickly as possible. Also having a more stable car aerodynamically will help with rear tyre wear. You have to have a well-balanced and stable car.

Last year’s tyres were so sensitive, it was imperative to manage the temperatures; once the rear tyres got too hot, it was all over.

As for the Coanda exhaust, it’s similar to last year, but there has been work on the channelling; the fence on the exit of the coanda has been updated and is a curved shape.

Rear wing

The rear wing seen here is largely a carry over. The DRS actuation is more standard now, the endplates look identical to the 2012 ones. They have made some changes to the lower beam wing

[Additional Technical Input: Mark Gillan]

Ross Brawn (left) with Toto Wolff (

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Wiring Loom today (small fire by the exhaust) affected the testing for today. Its a shame really wanted to see the improvements made on this car.

Mclaren had issues with the fuel pump, but managed to salvage some running with Jenson at the wheel near the end.


Does anybody know the rules for these little “winglets” and things sticking out of bodywork? If I remember correctly they were polished in the rules long time ago but now if I look the modern cars they again have all kinds of pieces sticking out of bodywork like Merc here with something on top and around of sidepods.


i’ve just noticed pictures of the f1 w04 in the london metro and wonder how many other papers are carrying it around the world because hamilton mentioned that he never saw so many cameras at mclaren when they showed off new cars. mercedes must be happy with such exposure. incidentally, i heard vodaphone shares are being sold on the double and hope this has nothing to do with hamilton’s departure from mclaren. if it is, blackberry must be rubbing their palms together with optimism.

will there be as much interest after the first race?…i wonder.


This car seems to have aero defined more compared to last year. I reckon Mercedes will be fighting for some podiums, dare I say one of their drivers being in the top three championship point score guy.


Very interesting analysis thanks James . This added something about the differences between the Mercedes and Renault engines I previously did not know. The aerial shot is great – are they holes in the top of the rear wing ??

Clearly Mercedes suffered badly from tyre degradation and heat transfer issues last year. The fine details such as the wheel spokes and brake calliper positioning along with the new Pirellis having a bigger contact patches on paper should bring them closer to the field. But the most significant thing will be how well balanced the car is now without their DDRS from last year.

The ridge on the top of the air intake -is that also to keep open the possibility of a passive DDRS system later on ?


Tornillo Amarillo

Coanda, coanda o no-anda…


James you have done it again my friend, a brilliant insight into another new car. I’m an F1 tech geek (well at least try to be) so its great to understand how the changes effect the way the performs and how characteristics can be read in this manor. Love the sight and loved the book from last year (just found the time to read the last chapter on strategy) you are one of the few people I have “job envy” towards and value your site over all others (it’s at the top of my bookmarks) thanks again.


Thank you


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team will never win a world championship until they burn the ships. Too many escape routes for Stuttgart.


I am quite excited and can’t wait to see what Lewis can do on this car.

As for performance vs the front runners, i don’t expect it to change much from last year.


I agree with the initial assertion let’s not write them off to early as the thermal work on ducts and wheels is a key area for tyre performance.


Thank you james for the great reviews, will you be doing one on the Mr02 tomorrow?

Would be good to hear your views comparing the cars at the back of the grid?


That Monster logo has ruined Hamilton’s helmet design, replacing the green stripe like that. Also makes it a lot harder to tell his helmet appart from Rosbergs.


Compared to what other teams are doing, and that of midfield teams like Sauber, Force India and Torro Rosso? Sorry, but I’m not seeing it.


I’m expecting them to be at least a second behind RB and McLaren and maybe slightly less than second behind Ferrari and Renault. Which means, millions spent for cars to routinely finish in the points…. Honda being Honda


What does Honda have to do with it? They haven’t been a factor since they bugged out in ’08!

Even if they do only routinely finish in the points, it will still be a step up from last year, and I seem to remember Alonso doing the same thing and ending up second (and if it wasn’t for Grosjean it would likely have been first).

I agree with James: Don’t write them off.

Let’s at least wait and see where they are in May.


I don’t understand why people seem so confident of Mclaren carrying it’s form into this season, they’ve basically scrapped the old car and went with the stepped nose with modesty panel style of car. Whilst the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari (who finished ahead of Mclaren in the constructors) have developed their cars, I think Lewis will outqualify one of the Mclarens in Australia.


Yes, let’s not forget the pull rod suspension new to Mclaren


Yes and that driver will be Jenson “no grip” Button.


Brilliant to hear about the changes to the wheel nuts, that was mentioned when we were at the factory back in December. A lot of changes, can’t wait to see this car out on track.

Would love to see a technical analysis of the new Torro Rosso. Looks very interesting, massively high nose (looks like there’s a stepped nose on the underside), under-cut sidepods, and a very, very neat rear with lots of space in front of the tyres.


The phoney war is about to end and the first shots are fired tomorrow. I can hardly wait!


Oh I wouldn’t say that the phoney war is over. The end of Q3 in Australia will reveal all.


I think its looks quite different than last years. Hope it is fast!;-)


Hi James, could you answer one question:

“The steering wheel (buttons) for Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes keep it the same as McLaren, or he will need to adapt to the new one”?

I ask because these “simple” things can cause a lot of trouble for the driver that is used to be driving at 300KM/h and is used to switch buttons on a known place, and now that change…

I believe the steering wheel technology can afford “driver’s taste” for switches’ positions. IIRC I heard that some drivers has the switches in different positions than their team mates.

Thank you!



kimi seemed to adapt to the new wheel on the lotus quickly, from memory he was fastest on day 1 of the first test last year, the first time in an f1 car for quite a while. he would never have driven a car with a DRS button 😉


And now they’ve given him another new one to learn:

Some of those new buttons could definitely come in handy though!


Actually, with Kimi being left-handed he struggled with the button positioning until the team made a reverse layout for him.


That was an April fools joke by lotus. I hope you didn’t actually fall for it.


Hamilton said Mercedes steering wheel has twice as many buttons as his previous McLaren one and he had already got rid of a few. Look up auto-und-sport.


Lewis said that the wheel is very different


I thought drivers customise their wheels to their preferences?


Actually now I could watch this video and it answer the question:

LH do need to adapt to the new one…



Let’s be real, Merc will struggle to make it to Q3. And halfway the season they will say they are working on the next season’s car so drop back fighting with Force India.

So the exact same story of the last 3 years.


Sounds like you’re wishing for that. Like James said “Don’t write them off”.


I am judging it by their last 3 years, every time it was the exact same story.


If you had judged RBR by their first three years then they never had a chance at the WCC. By 2008 they were being beaten by STR. Absolutely hopeless.

Mercedes is already doing better than they were. Let’s just wait and see what happens, especially when the regs change in 2014.


Great article many thanks, I can’t wait for the new season, closed intakes around the engine look interesting much smaller than mclaren, looks like they’ve really worked on the thermal side of things



Thanks for all the articles, with Mark Gillan analysis they make for great reading!

I know you go to great lengths to do this articles (such as getting a look at Mercedes 2014 engines. I enjoy every aspect of your site and not to sound too ungrateful, but could you have larger/higher res photos in your articles instead of screenshots? Bit difficult to see the photos even on a large scree. I have to look at other website photos as I read the analysis. May be you have some restrictions but it does take away some enjoyment. I feel like for articles like this, it would be very helpful.

I know you work with Darren Heath, any chance we can get larger pictures?



Second that. Great analysis(s?), especially with Mark on board, but it would be nice to get a better look at some of the details you talk about without having to do an image search.

Easiest way would be to have smaller images that link to the larger ones.


James, we see a lot of reference to ‘the coke bottle’… Please could you describe what this is, and maybe show a few examples? Thanks


Guess you’re a Young Man! Those of us, um, ‘more mature’ (well, older if not wiser) remember the classic old coke bottle with its famous curvy, contoured ‘hobble skirt’ shape. So imagine one lying down; the car bodywork line flows in and out in a similar way.


What’s a hobble skirt? 🙂


Cool, now what’s a Wiki?


It’s shaped a bit like the rear of an F1 car when viewed from above:-)

This is what Wiki says: A hobble skirt is a skirt with a narrow enough hem to significantly impede the wearer’s stride.


It’s just a reference to the shape of the bodywork of an F1 car, i.e. from overhead it looks like a classic Coke bottle.


Look at the car from the top down. And, imagine the original curvy coke bottle.


the coke bottle is the area where the sidepods narrow in and shape like the top of a coke bottle. the coke bottle area is this space left above the floor inside the rear wheels.

the coke bottle area is very important for aero because the teams try to utilise the air and exhaust gases moving through this area towards the diffuser.


It’s just the tear drop shape of the rear half of the car as viewed from above. It tapers from the wide sidepods to nothing.


Just picture looking at the rear end of the body work from above the car, it looks like the top of a coke bottle. Thats it. 🙂


Hope Ross and Co. have finally produced a car that’s not oink oink slow! But my gut instinct says this will unfortunately be another one for the Merc recycling bin. It needed a fundamental change, but this doesn’t appear to have any. I sincerely hope Ross and Aldo can prove me wrong cos it would be great for Lewis to give Seb a run for his one-finger salute!

alastair emmerson

I wouldn’t say last years car was oink oink slow( as you put it), it was one if the fastest in the first part of the season, they just needed someone with the ability to drive it right to the edge, hence signing Lewis, Ross said him self they need someone to see where they are going wrong with the car.


I’m worried about the reduced side pod openings. Always worrying when they do that! Overheating can be a race killer when you get unusual situations like a very hot race, or prolonged waiting for a delayed race start. The last thing they need is point-losing retirements…


You’ll find out soon enough in Malaysia!

rob in victoria bc

Not to sound too nit-picky, it’s an honest question, a little surprised to see Nico driving the Wo4. I didn’t think the car could be driven outside of official tests, or is there an exemption for car launches that I am unaware of?


100km shakedown allowed

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