With just two weeks of pre-season testing the teams have had an incredibly tough time making sure not only that their new cars run reliably and that they correlate with what the data has shown back at the factory, but also assessing new components ahead of the first race.
Mercedes covered over 3,500 miles across both tests in Barcelona, putting one of the sport’s biggest outfits in the prime position to try out some aggressive concepts well before the season opener in Melbourne. During the second week the W07 was clad with plenty of complex devices, particularly around the sidepod area.
The traditional, single element bargeboard was thrown out in favour of a much more intricate 6 element design (highlighted), with three of the larger vanes joint together with a slender metal bracket to support the load of the airflow passing over them. Serrated bargeboards are nothing new to Formula 1, however the Silver Arrows have taken the design another step forward by breaking it up into separate pieces entirely.
Separating the bargeboard will also separate the airflow that passes over it into a number of individual flows, each flow being at a different pressure and velocity to that of the others due to the shape of each of the vanes. As these flows join together at the trailing edge, a powerful, elongated vortex will form and will travel along the sidepod’s undercut bodywork. This vortex will prevent the airflow hugging very tightly to the car from dispersing, forcing it all the way to the rear end and over the top side of the diffuser.
This may help the floor produce more downforce but it is quite a drag-inducing method of airflow management. Such is the performance of the power unit that Mercedes do not have to worry too much about the drawbacks of this design.
These new turning vanes were matched with a set of ‘teeth’ along the floor – this is the region Mercedes refer to as the ‘W-floor’. Like the individual bargeboard elements, these teeth produces a vortex that seals off the section of floor they lie upon. The vortex stops air leaking out from underneath the car and thus produces more downforce as a result.
Mercedes continued to tinker with this area of the car as the test progressed. Over the final two days a new sidepod turning vane appeared, with the upper and lower sections separated.
The lower element – forming an aerofoil profile – is fixed to the floor, curling over as it sweeps aggressively outward. Its shape is such that it will capture any turbulence low to the ground that is produced by the front tyre, sending it as far away from the sidepod as possible.
Hanging above is the main portion of the turning vane. Along its base is a small footplate from where the vane cuts off, further isolating the lower element. Again, the vane is still acting as a barrier against front tyre wake. However, the interaction of airflow between the front wing, front brake ducts, suspension arms and the leading edge of the sidepods is incredibly delicate, and Mercedes are taking things to the next level in the pursuit of aerodynamic perfection.