Development race - Mercedes and Ferrari with differing approach (Part One)

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While some races have provided epic on-track battles between the top drivers in the first half of the 2019 season, the year has seen Mercedes controlling the championship. Ferrari and Red Bull have been unable to match the rival’s performance, but the off-track development battle is undoubtedly raging between the top members of the sport.

Seeking its sixth successive titles, Mercedes started the year with showing a low-key performance during the pre-season testing only to excel then in the opening race meeting of the campaign. By contrast, Ferrari seemed to be in a class of its own when teams fine-tuned their cars at Barcelona, but they were then unable to convert that form into results come the season-opening race in Australia.

Interestingly, the Brackley-based team has been following a different approach to its rivals Ferrari and Red Bull when it comes to in-season development. The reigning world champions has usually opted for major upgrade packages while the sport’s most successful outfit has often split and divided its development into smaller steps. As the summer break enables a breathing space, we now take a look at the major steps of development war between Ferrari and Mercedes.


Mercedes - In Bahrain, the Anglo-German outfit was busy with trying out engine cover panels with different openings. After the relatively mild temperatures during the pre-season testing and the opening race venue in Australia, the 2019 cars had to run efficiently in Bahrain in hot conditions for the first time. The fact that Mercedes already had concerns in Bahrain indicated that the cooling package of the W10 is at a minimum level to achieve maximum aerodynamic performance.

    Different openings on the engine cover

Chinese Grand Prix

Mercedes – The team debuted a modified front wing endplate featuring a more contoured trailing edge. To accommodate the S-shaped trailing edge of the endplate, the footplate has also been made much shorter. The change intended to alter the vortices around the outer region of the wing. The team opted for a high-downforce front wing with high loadings on the outer section and the engineers wanted to have more control over the airflows flying towards the front wheels.

    Modified front wing endplate

Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Mercedes - To meet the demands of the high-speed Baku street circuit, Mercedes opted for a low downforce rear wing. While both wing elements occupied a smaller box region to decrease drag, the team also introduced a single-element T-Wing.

The team had to make minor changes to its front wing design after being asked by the FIA. Mercedes introduced a new endplate design in the previous round in China, featuring an S-shaped trailing edge which exposed the profile of the uppermost front wing element. The team made ad-hoc modification to the new design at Shanghai, but it refined the contours of the trailing edge for Azerbaijan.

    Changes to the front wing
    Lower downforce rear wing

Ferrari - In Baku, Ferrari revealed the upgrades that marked the first development step for its SF90 Formula 1 car. As part of this package, the team debuted a revised set of bargeboards which featured new vertical elements on the slotted footplate to have more control of the airflow flying towards the back of the car. The floor was also modified with the engineers adding new turning fins ahead of the rear tyres to decrease drag.

As Ferrari’s concept builds on a low-drag philosophy, the team did not need to bring an extreme low downforce rear wing for the never-ending straights of the Baku race track, but it introduced a curved mainplane to it to tailor its rear wing a bit to meet the demands of the first street circuit of the 2019 season.

    a revised set of bargeboards
    a track-specific lower downforce rear wing
    modified floor

Spanish Grand Prix

Mercedes – The Anglo-German team’s upgrade package for the Spanish Grand Prix included numerous new aerodynamic parts. The new sidepod deflectors features three elements rather than two, the new mirrors were placed on to a long flow conditioner. The front wing’s third upper flap was also modified with a short slot added to its tipped section. The multi-element boomerang wings have also been slightly reshaped for the first European venue of the season.

    Sidepod deflectors
    New mirrors
    Alterations to the boomerang winglet
    New front wing

Ferrari - Barcelona saw Ferrari introducing its second significant upgrade package for its 2019 car including changes to the power unit, the engine cover and the front wing. The new engine cover featured an aggressive notch, a cut-off behind the airbox section. The reshaped front wing featured revised endplate with more sweeping angle which helped drive more dirty air away around the front tyres. The team also brought forward its first engine upgrade to Spain to chase down early runaway leaders Mercedes. The PU modification included the introduction of new race fuel from Shell and a new internal combustion engine. Although the Scuderia only wanted to debut the second phase of its 2019 power unit at the Canadian Grand Prix, it managed to fast-track its development work in desperation.

    changes to the front wing
    revised engine cover
    upgraded power unit
    fuel upgrade

Canadian Grand Prix

Mercedes - In the relentless push to seize an advantage, Mercedes have brought a “phase two” power unit to this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, with customers Williams and Racing Point also getting the upgrade. The Anglo-German outfit completed the first part of the season with the same power unit before introducing its first engine development. By contrast, its arch-rival Ferrari split its first engine upgrade into two steps by introducing a new internal combustion engine in Spain and make the power unit upgrade complete with debuting a new turbocharger and MGU-H in Canada.

    Second-specification power unit

Ferrari - For Canada, Ferrari’s long-time partner Brembo brought a track-specific upgrade for the braking system to achieve maximum efficiency on the fast Montreal track which tests the braking abilities of racing cars. The new carbon disc featured seven cooling holes in a chevron formation, totalling over 1400 holes. The mounting bells were also modified: two rectangular opening secured the required cooling demands.

The team also brought a revised rear wing which seemeD to be in a similar specification to the wing run in Baku. Due to the low-drag philosophy of the SF90, Ferrari did not need an extreme low downforce rear wing for the long straight of the Canadian track. The Baku/Montreal-spec rear wing saw the outboard sections having been raised to reduce the overall frontal area.

In Montreal, Ferrari made its power unit upgrade complete which it started in Spain back in May. The Scuderia originally planned to introduce the second-spec 2019 PU in Canada, but in a quest for quick improvements, it brought the introduction of the new internal combustion engine forward. In Canada, the team completed the first upgrade to 2019 power unit by debuting a new motor generator unit-heat and turbocharger.

    revised carbon brake disc
    upgraded power unit
    modified rear wing