It appears that Mercedes’ new wing operates on a different concept than the last one. The main difference being that while the old wing was designed to just move airflow around the outside of the front wheel, the new wing is also designed to have a slight “inwash component”.
Looking at the picture below, we can see how the old design worked with its outwash design:
Let’s now take a look to the new design:
The outer fixed portion of the front wing, the large vortex generator tunnel(1), is larger than on the previous wing and also larger than any other team’s current or previously-run wing. The elements on this outer portion have a much more “squared profile” then what we usually see (although edges are still relative round), both on the inner side by the notch and on the outer side by the FWEP (front wing end plate). The trailing edge of the last element of the tunnel has a very large vertical component and very aggressively turns the air upward over the tyre (4.a). Similarly next to the FWEP the angle change for the airflow is quite abrupt with a large change going to almost 90 degrees (4.b)
The shape of the inside/underside of the vortex tunnel is also very aggressive. While this can lead to an unstable vortex it does show that Mercedes is quite confident in their design.
Although it’s difficult to establish/confirm at this moment, there might be further changes to the main plane and adjustable flaps, as well as to the FWEP. All these changes simply look to be optimizations to accommodate the changed airflow structures and don’t look to do anything new or something out of the ordinary. The cascade also features a slightly different support, again made to accommodate the changed wing profile underneath.
The surprising low amount of changes on the rest of the wing might suggest this wing was assembled in a hurry. Normally front wings have a very long production and assembly time, easily up to 3-4 weeks. Mercedes might have recycled an existing front wing of the previous specification and molded the changes onto it. This can cut the required time by a considerable amount, but also leaves full integration of the changes compromised. We might see further changes in Bahrain.
The change in the philosophy now results in a wing that is designed to move air as aggressively as possible up and over the front tyre, around the side of the tyre and last but not least, create a barrier of air next to the inside of the front tyre. It is suspected that this air barrier is to help shield the rest of the car from the dirty front tyre wake while at the same time helping to fill the low pressure area behind the front tyre and reduce drag.
Even though this is a bold and radical change, Mercedes looked very comfortable running this, immediately deploying it in qualifying and race. This does suggest this wing has been very carefully been developed and tested in the windtunnel, for a considerable amount of time.
All in all, the new wing is extremely complex and this follows a trend of wings getting more and more complex as each season comes and goes. However as well as becoming more complex, this wing seems to have a slightly different focus compared to the front wings of other teams.-Text by Alexander Wheedon
-Illustrations by Andy Urlings
-Last check up by Andy Urlings & Steven De Groote