Video: Why the Mercedes was the dominant F1 car of 2014 and how they made it faster
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Mercedes F1 car
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Dec 2014   |  9:15 am GMT  |  181 comments

This year’s Mercedes W05 was one of those cars which comes around once a generation and utterly dominates F1, like the 1988 McLaren MP4/4 and the 1992 Williams FW14B. So what made it so good?

Here we get to the bottom of it, illustrated by a stunning animation by Giorgio Piola and analysis by JA on F1 technical adviser Dominic Harlow, former chief operations engineer at Force India (Twitter: @Dom_Harlow)

The success of the car was clearly based around the new hybrid turbo power unit and some of the decisions that were taken around that, but the car also had the right aerodynamics for the new regulations, which had significantly reduced rear end downforce. Here we look at how Mercedes evolved those aerodynamics to make the car even faster as the season went on.

The car broke a number of records for a single season: 16 wins, 11 one-two finishes, 18 pole positions, 701 points (out of a possible maximum of 860) 12 front row lock outs, 978 laps in the lead.

Indeed so successful has the car been that there are moves behind the scenes to try to adjust the regulations to ensure that they do not dominate for too long and to give the other teams a chance to close the gap. The amount of effort going into those moves, at F1 Strategy Group level at present, tells you how significant the performance gap is and how fearful the powers that be – and other teams – are about a lengthy period of dominance.

The signs are that there has been some movement regarding the timing of the homologation of power units, which allows engine makers to work on some of the areas of permitted development for longer. For the manufacturers who are behind this is a small victory, as it means that they will be able to continue to develop their engines into the season, if they have not used up all their 32 permitted opportunities by the end of February, rather than have them frozen at that point, as the old rules had it. However Ferrari and Renault moves to open up to allow 37 areas of development were not successful.

Mercedes F1 turbo engine

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1

Why would other engine manufacturers want to put their name to the current crop of stayed teams that have had their chance at F1 engine tuning back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, they had no answer to the 2nd generation engines from overseas and consequently got left behind and now are at the whim of get what your given, if you do not like it improve it yourselves, seems to suite the later abled tuners, Ferrari aside. The current engine rules are so open in combination set up it could take an eternity to stay competitive using up much of the sponsorship deal and you could still be on the wrong tracks! but that’s always been the appeal of F1 from a tuners point of view. The U.K would probably have the highest percentage of engineering grads with double chocolate and wham bars concentrated in art design and manufacture in Europe, so you would think competitiveness would not be a problem, communication must be on a whole new level. The entry level into F1 seems to be delinquently in favour to business and common sense safety issues which would seem to be left to the brit fraternity and competitive engines is something that should be handed over with out debate pitiful. The brit teams in all fairness are not taking things to seriously’ at the present time seemingly leaving the life support systems life’s blood to what would be known in the building trade as common contractors. I shouldn’t wounder if their aren’t sleeping giants waiting to pounce with competitive engineers to cash in on the F1’s peaceful purse where others are failing at the present, rather alarming that german viewers are leaving F1 viewing in their droves just disgusted with others efforts, truly a motivator.

2

I miss the sound, but that’s secondary. I miss the pinnacle of aero development, but that too lags. We need competitive teams and a variety of manufacturers. The new PUs may not make the best noise, but if they attract more engine suppliers then great – that will bring more fans. We all want to see the brand we drive competing for wins. That’s how the average guy connects with F1. If we could get Toyota, BMW, Peugeot, VW/Audi in the game, the appeal would broaden which is good for all. If the new PUs are what make that happen, then I’m all for them.

3

That the differences between the engines will decrease there is no doubt, it is more difficult for Mercedes to improve their engine (an already highly developed engine) than the others, more so now that as expected manufacturers can and will introduce major PU developments during the year, it should be remembered that 92% of the engine is open to development from the first to the second season, of which manufacturers can chose a maximum of 48% they want to develop “during/through the year” rather than having to use all before 2nd season starts”.

A happy Christmas to all.

4

Despite the engine freeze, i hope the difference between the engines will somehow decrease in 2015.For the fans and F1 itself’s sake..

5

Interesting article which gives enough information for us laymen. I just have to hand it to the engineers and designers this time they did it all so very well, and from what we hear are set to significantly improve for next year. As well as what we might call performance gains (engineers look at all components in terms of performance, but it is not necessarily or even usually about speed) they do need to make it more reliable. I think they also need to improve reliability and feel in the braking system as it seems to be one area where there might potentially be a weakness.

6

In a word – Brown

7

I don’t think this video is revealing anything secretive, but it’s a clear demonstration that Mercedes have been improving each year since 2010, and have put the most thought and resources into their interpretation of this era’s technical regulations. Frankly, had it not been for the rediculous tyre situation last year they would have been much closer to the front. Yes, they have had by far the best engine, but you know what? Their rivals had the same rules and didn’t come up with anything revolutionary.

The exquisite attention to detail that we see in the continual evolution of the aerodynamics is only possible because they are built on top of a strong foundation (chassis & engine).

Looking forward to watching the Silver Arrows genuinely racing each other at the front next year.

8

I watched it and didn’t think the video revealed anything we didn’t all already know ” Yes Mercedes made a very good and well thought out car and then they improved it throughout the season”, yes and the secrets that made them superior? Oh that’s right, their car was better.

9

Merc did a great job. Great team. I hope the other teams manage to catch up otherwise will be looking at another dull year.

10

Btw has anyone seen the article on BBC about potential more powerful and louder engines coming in 2016??? The article was very thin on details! James do you know something about it?

My fear is that Bernie is too scared of merc dominance and just wants manufacturers out by changing the engine rules again. Making Renault, Honda and Mercedes lose all the development money for the new hybrid engine. Is Redbull tenchologies developing a new engine? Will Ferrari and redbull be the only F1 engine providers in F1? Maybe a 2.0/1.8 litre bi-turbo with some sort of cheap hybrid? I don’t know it seems to me very strange that Christian Horner has been calling for the old V8 to come back at the risk of alienating their own Renault engine providers. Any thoughts? Anyone? Is is the F1 paranoia getting to me? :.(

11

I did seen/read an article on the other British famous site! Which said that the new PU’S does not need or use spark plugs as they use direct injection.

No wonder the level of F1 knowledge of some of their followers which is abundant over here.

12

I am surprised you did not hear the famous Ted Kravitz suggest such at the very first Grand Prix when Lewis had an issue. Live on air!

A clanger for which interestingly no one apologised.

Tell you what – send them an email Sunny

🙂

13

Christian is suffering from two things, a boss who wants to win at any cost and his head being scrambled by a ginger person. His public demeanour and attitude have changed considerably over this last year, look at any tv interview.

CH needs to remember the previous 4 years, when his team was dominant. Ok so the rules on flexi wings were tightened up and the test loads increased, but Red Bull were still trying it on again this year and got one set banned. He voted for the current regs in the F1SG so he should live with them.

There seems to be a tendency nowadays for anyone who is not winning to behave like a spoilt child and keep harping on about how it isn’t fair that someone beat them. Remember it is Ferrari who have the veto on rules, they could have stopped the engines last year, it is only now they realise how far behind they are, that they want to change the rules even more in their favour.

It just goes to show it is intelligent design, not overwhelming tsunamis of money that win in F1, else Ferrari would win everything all the time. What next, a Ferrari position in front of pole maybe 20 metres ahead of the pole position? Could they have won then? No not this year!

To be in Ferrari now, it must be like a Marks Bros movie, people rushing in and out and in all directions, everyone fearful for their jobs.

And the cigarette smoking man watching!

14

Going with the Mercedes type of “split turbo” where both exhaust turbine and charge air compressor are placed outside the front and back of the cylinder block is not going to get Renault and FERRARI on par with Mercedes, we know this because mclaren has the same homologated PU and are/were still no match for the works team, what this shows is that Mercedes gets more power during a lap, and for lap after lap from their ERS.

As I said Mercedes is not the only one using a “split turbo”.

What the WO5 have is a car advantage, meaning all parts that make-up the car functions better together and can be managed better than what other teams came up with.

15

Correct – considering the number of cars using both the engine and the fuels as per the Merc, it was clear there was far more to the total than the sum of a few turbo parts and in Ron speak, different specs, which was blatantly untrue and simply sour grapes….

16

It’s a great car. No question

17

No mention of the drivers?

19

James no reshuffle in Lotus? Ferrari reshuffles its staff but it was the Lotus ones who made a disaster car compared to the previous year.

20

I’m not sure Lotus has the money to restructure in a significant way. They were hurt badly by the ban on FRIC suspension design which underpinned their technical strategy.

21

So the car package is really that good, maybe even Max Chilton could have even got a podium driving the Merc? LOL

23

Yes any driver from on the grid would have have been in with a chance of winning the championship driving the WO5.

24

It seems that the separation of the turbo from the compressor was a major factor. Yet , having a long shaft spinning at the incredible speeds used, could be asking for trouble, the slightest imbalance would induce yaw and disaster.

25

sunny stivala:

You are both right and wrong!

Yes there is a limit in article 5.2.4 but it is 125,000 rpm not 100,000 for the MGU-H

(The MGU-K has a limit of 50,000 rpm )

So the speed is not as bad as I thought but still an extreme achievement when you consider the generator is on the same shaft.

26

The speed while being an issue is actually the least problematic to solve in engineering terms.

The loads upon the shaft are where the real issues lie.

Perhaps the easiest way of imagining some of them are in visualising a large ship propellor weighing many tons being slammed into reverse and back again constantly.

The motor generator unit along with the admittedly light weight turbines at each end applies constantly varying loads on the shaft and hence movement of any type is an issue.

Obviously the mass of the entire structure was critical.

It has been done before (split turbo) but not with quite such dramatic requirements.

Obviously even further, it still has very little to do with the Merc performance advantage.

27

100k RPM is sure regarded as extreme in engineering circles.

Originally the rules stated the turbosupercharger max speed as 150k RPM, but after some turbines started exploding (remember Mercedes pushing the FIA to mandate a heavy explosion proof guard?) the RPM was lowered.

28

It is rumoured that it took two years to perfect the bearings and shaft to run at those speeds (180-200,000 rpm)

Any slight movement or flex destroys the MGU – H

It is also why the others want the in year freeze removed so they can speed up the timetable and hopefully take less than two years to develop similar.

Of course Renault are suggesting it makes no difference and they don’t require such developments…

And Ferrari are apparently struggling with the entire unit including the engine…

29

Thank you sunny.

I like those that consider the occasional typo garbage.

Think about your post – are you seriously suggesting the 100,000 rpm speed is simple to engineer with no vibration along such length?

It has been widely reported as taking a couple of years to perfect.

Oh and by the way – that Dr in front of my name…

That’s just one of my technical degrees…

30

It’s an incredible speed, I was using my router yesterday morning, which runs at 20,000 rpm and thought how can you have something running nearly ten times as fast?

The other problem is how you generate from it, the frequency of the resulting emf must be at very least, twice the shaft speed. So it must be around 3-5000Hz. The emc problems have got to be huge. Radiation and stray back, or anti-phase, emf being generated by all the nearby cables.

31

It is a real pity that some goes on a forum spouting garbage that can influence/mislead the opinion of those that follows the sports but are not technically minded.

The formula one turbosupercharger is limited to 100k RPM by the rules, and that includes the MGU-H which according to the rules must share a common shaft with all the elements (compressor/turbine/MGU-H) “on that shaft assembly to always rotate about a common axis and at the same angular velocity”.

32

I think it was the reason why Ferrari and Renault didn’t go that way. But, probably even Mercedes didn’t have an idea of absolute dominace. They did know they are going to be strong but how strong, they couldn’t know. Before winter testing I expected that Ferrari would be as strong as Mercedes because they had everything Mercedes had, but…

33

Well, that video actually explained nothing. I think by now we all knew that it was a powerful, drivable and economical engine combined with an excellent chassis, but I’d be more interested in finding out exactly where Ferrari and Renault went wrong with their engines?

34

Good PR. Winning teams always build momentum.

35

toto wolff said hamilton raised the team to another level in terms of performance. how does that fit in to why they were so dominant?

36

The WO5 dominance was such that it rendered BOTH it’s drivers irrelevant.

38

@dave c….it was so boring that you watched it from march till november and carried on writing about it throughout the off season.

39

Fair point.

Although for people who were fans of Ham or Ros it was a fascinating season.

I am a fan of the battle between teams rather than drivers, so it was a bit of a yawnfest for the championship. However it was great for minor placings.

40

Probably true. Merc could save some money and put a couple of F3 rookies into the car next year. Would still get both champs.

41

is that why the 2014 season is described as the most exciting season ever with their bahrain performance is the most exciting race ever?

42

I dunno, I don’t think Mercedes would have won ether title if they didn’t have any drivers…

43

From the BBC

However, with Vettel having been recruited from Red Bull to replace Alonso, who has left to rejoin McLaren, and work under way on improving their car, Marchionne is confident they can recover ground on their rivals by the end of next season.

“Not to underestimate the significance or the magnitude of the task, I think Ferrari can probably get to the same place [as Mercedes] by the end of 2015,” he said.

“Some of the work has already started. We need to be able to emulate their success.”

Arrivabene, who has years of experience working on F1 governing body the FIA’s commission as a sponsor representative, said he would consider two race wins next year a success, adding: “If we win four, we go to heaven.”

If they win two races I will eat my shorts!

I can’t see them catching Mercedes by the end of 2015…………..

44

I can’t see them catch Merc by the end of F1…

46

I’m sure he meant that by the end of next year they’ll be where Merc is at the end of *this year.

47

Yes that is how I read it………………….I don’t think they will.

49

Never heard any more about it. But it sounds… weird.

50

@neo_manoj…..do the helmet designs not identify the drivers?

51

as far as my knowledge is concerned it is a wing located over the engine cover which shows the driver name in LED so that spectators can identify who is the driver on the machine.

52

how about that boy will Stevens who raced alonso in that caterham? alonso was so shocked and his engineer told him it was the new boy. ferrari should’ve signed stevens instead of vettel.

53

Let’s not forget who set the whole process in mind and gathered the brain power and engineered the organization to make things work that really made the difference. The fella who’s off fishing these days and Mercedes pushed him out the door and they’re now riding on the coat-tails.

54

Hear, hear! If someone makes Ross an offer that suits him, Mercedes will soon have real competition again. For all the brain-power in Stuttgart, have no idea why they allowed a power struggle to cost them his talents. At the very least, it would have been smart of them to pay him to not engage in F1 ( as Ferrari did paying Kimi not to drive). If Brawn decides to give up fishing, think revenge be first order of business ( would be fun to have that drama, so tired of Bernie’s…)

55

At some point (probably around the end of next season) the Ross-o-philes are going to have to acknowledge that Merc did a superb job without him and abandon this tired talking point about Merc’s success being entirely down to him.

The triumvirate of Merc leaders wanted to run the team in a very new and different way than Ross would have in their place (lets face it Ross is old school) and that resulted in more transparency between the drivers and much more candour with the press and fans.

56

Mercedes straight came not only from the engine and package around it I believe. They had outstanding mechanical grip. Harder tyres this year helepd them in overcoming struggles that they had in 2013. Mercedes had many clever aerodynamic solutions. Most of them can be seen in that video. I think that they choose the best solution for front nose, wih short nose without that dildo style end.

57

i think their main advantage is energy recovery and delivery. the rest are minor. and the best thing is f1 cannot ban the energy recovery system because they have combined it with the engine and called it the power unit. so it looks like nothing can be done to stop mercedes apart from sabotage.

58

@sunny stivala…..you will witness those tokens evaporate throughout the 2015 season.

59

“We made great advances in the last strategy group meeting with Maurizio managing to find a solution in regards the use of tokens in 2015 which thereby allows us some freedom of introductions of upgrades through the year”.

60

aside from the Brawn /Wolf power struggle, they have team stability which accounts for a lot in today’s f1.

61

they lost that cool engineer jock clear who comes across the radio so naturally unlike the robotic voices we often hear from others, to ferrari.

62

The sport made moves to level the playing field after 2002 and 2004 when Ferrari dominated, and I think the sport became poorer because of it. The other teams need to catch up, rather than altering the rules to provide a short cut.

63

“The other teams need to catch up, rather than altering the rules to provide a short cut.”

They’re not trying to alter the rules to provide a short cut… they’re trying to alter the rules to *allow* them to catch-up.

How do you propose they “catch up” if the area they’re behind in is locked out for development?

64

Don’t worry. Rules shut down red bull and ferrari before them. Unless the rest catch up rules will shut down merc as well.

65

@james clayton……f1 is a sport so if they want to catch up they should go build the resources to specification, hire qualified professionals, train them well and they should catch up. campaigning for rule change is nothing but a short cut.

mclaren, ferrari and redbull have much bigger facilities than mercedes and yet mercedes have them all beaten so all they aim to do now is cheat.

66

“The other teams need to catch up, rather than altering the rules to provide a short cut.”

They’re not trying to alter the rules to provide a short cut… they’re trying to alter the rules to *allow* them to catch-up.

How do you propose they “catch up” if the area they’re behind in is locked out for development?

67

It is a fact/s that the FIA/rule makers did interfere by changing the rules to slow down and or level the playing field during the years, but I don’ remember there ever were rules that prevented others from catching-up to a dominant car like there is this time, also don’t ever remember a dominant team that wants to go racing but those all they can to prevent others from competing.

68

the rules were decided and all the competitors signed up to compete. we saw fric taken off the cars and some other minor modifications to the rules.

as far as homologation is concerned, they should stick to the rules. they can introduce any type of engines they wish but please stick to the homologation rules.

or they could all use mercedes engines if they want.

there is no logical reason to change anything because with the 2014 formula, we witnessed the most thrilling season ever. more of that please.

69

There are 4 other teams on the grid with the SAME engine!

Merc did a good job so they should keep their advantage for a while, if you do a sloppy job you have to face the consequences and not go running to mummy saying it is unfair.

70

Engine development is open again until February isn’t it?

71

The did the same to Redbull as well. Assume Merc is next if the others don’t make some ground over the winter.

72

redbull’s advantage was different. renault and ferrari [mod] when they were given the chance to upgrade their engines.
so long as the rules are adhered to, i can’t see mercedes losing their advantage. no in season engine development after homologation.

73

they know that they can’t catch up so they’re trying other things. just like rosberg who couldn’t keep up with hamilton’s pace, parked up in monaco and cut hamilton’s tyre in spa.

74

@dave c…..yes they all lied. rosberg did it on purpose because we all saw their previous close battles without contact and the only contact they had was in spa with rosberg’s front wing clinically cutting hamilton’s front wing.

only if you could get rid of prejudice you might be able to understand.

75

@Aveli

Thank you for the comedy.

Yes they all lied, drivers like Webber are known to lie all the time…. 😉

(who as a retired driver has nothing to gain or lose)

76

Aveli: you are a true fan!

77

@dave c……..as piquet jnr and he’ll explain to you exactly how it’s done. all those drivers who said it was impossible were not telling the truth. hamilton understood it very well and rosberg admitted to doing it on purpose as a result was punished by the team although the fia turned a blind eye.

78

Yes, yes Aveli – Rosberg has so much skill he pulled off that tyre cutting move that every other F1 driver said was impossible to do accurately without risking your own wing,

But despite being more skilled than any other driver he was still beaten in all other wheel to wheel driving action with Ham.

*sigh*

Lets face it Ros made a hash of it by being stubborn and trying to make a point. No more than that – in the end it didnt matter.

79

Great insight, I love that kind of thing, but where did you record it? It sounded like you were in the canteen. Perhaps you need to find a cupboard to record in next time?

Guess beggars can’t be choosers and I’d prefer to have the video than to have a written transcript as it works well with the images.

TS

80

Brilliant & informative article James.

Mercedes are hitting the ball for sixes in engine, aero & general car design.

The next gen Mercedes car will be awesome.

They’ll be hard to beat in 2015. Come on Lewis 🙂 kick some RBR rump!!

The likes of Horner trying to change engine lock down, is just unjustified.

If it was Red Bull who had such a leap in car development

they’d be smiling all the way & not changing any rules.

81

When the RBR had a dominant car there were no rules that prevented others from catching-up.

82

RBR and Ferrari and everyone else agreed to these rules. I’m not saying they’re fair but that’s what they signed up to. If they’d been dominant there is no way they would give up tat advantage without a struggle.

83

The question is why they try to change a rule they all agreed upon?

You only vote for something that you think will suit you. Now that it didn’t work out they all point at the fact that this rule they previously voted for is unfair.

84

Let’s be honest. All rule changes FIA did from 2010 to 2013 were AGAINST Red Bull dominance. Every team also had a chance to copy Red Bull solutions. In 2014 and 2015 NOBODY is allowed to copy Mercedes. It’s OK to root for Lewis and Mercedes, but you can stop right there.

85

Agree. Did the same to Ferrari. As James points out in this article, rule makers already are thinking of ways to hold Merc back. It’s the law of f1, success is a punishable offence.

86

If the scrutineers were as clinical as they have in 2014,

how many times do you reckon RBR cars would have been deemed illegal on Quali or after the race in 2010-2013? Quite a few times.

Reckon if many of the teams followed RBR we may have had only a few cars racing in 2010-2013 hyper flexing wings & flexi fails ! Last race of 2014 just showed how close Red Bull likes to skip over the regulations.

Well lets see what 2015 brings 🙂

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