Mercedes F1: A return to traditional car engineering

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Aerodynamics or mechanical engineering?

We’ve heard a lot from Ferrari and their paternal president in recent times about how unhappy they are that aerodynamics is so important in F1. Il Padrino has been cited regularly as complaining this is no good for car manufacturer’s as it is irrelevant to most of what they do in producing road cars.

This of course has nothing to do with the fact that Red Bull have in Newey, the King of the aero designers and due  to lack of foresight on matters such as the wind tunnel and quality of  their aero team. That said, aerodynamics on a Ferrari road car are not the ultimate priority.

That said, I have been involved in countless debates over what F1 should be trying to achieve with the design and technical regulations. We all fear the move towards a ‘spec’ series like Indycar because F1 has historically been about automotive prototyping and engineering.

The automotive manufacturers

With hindsight F1 faced a huge crisis back in 2009. The withdrawal of Toyota, Honda and BWM all within 12 months demonstrated exactly how flimsy  the F1 grid could quickly become. Ecclestone was persuaded to offer some funding to new teams 11 and 12 with ‘Bernies cash’  – the reasoning being that history and financial attrition of F1 would mean that 12 could easily become 10 again soon.

There are now in F1 just 2 manufacturer’s proper and 3 engine suppliers. I can argue McLaren should not be considered in the same breath as Ferrari or Mercedes as a ‘manufacturer’. Of course they make road cars but  they have nether range of Mercedes portfolio or anywhere near the supercar volume of Ferrari. Most importantly they don’t produce an engine  in-house. Caterham are essentially a specialist kit car provider.

Manufacturers not turned on by F1

Why does this matter? A motor sport where most of the design effort goes into aerodynamics does nothing for the likes of BMW, Audi, VW/Porsche and the Japanese companies either. So F1 is highly dependent on a few players to keep the show on the road. Speaking to Keke Rosberg in a hotel bar last year he was adamant F1 needs more manufacturers – and this appears to be widely held view by people across the F1 spectrum.

The turn off for many of the absent manufacturers named above has been the engine specification. These companies are not building V8’s en masse – if at all, Those running F1 did hope the new V6 Tubo specification power trains would be sufficient to entice more manufacturers to enter/re-enter the sport. Clearly not so far.

Mercedes mystery

I have to say of all the teams in F1, I am intrigued by Mercedes more than the others. Maybe that is because the personnel, history and modus operandi of the others are more clearly defined. Their utter lack of competitiveness has in some ways been shocking, but when you peel back the layers more understandable even though still poor.

F1 2012 was full of the unexpected. For me Mercedes topped the list with the surprise appointment of Niki Lauda as  chairman of Mercedes AMG F1 (failed boss at Jaguar) and Lewis Hamilton as lead driver (in all but name). Equally surprising were the departures of Norbert Haug and Michael Schumacher and Dieter Zetsche explains to Autocar  exactly why this had to be.

“Formula One is a very visible platform, and there’s no doubt we spend a lot of marketing budget on competing as we consider it close to our core business. But as it’s so visible people see pretty quickly if you succeed or not, and if the results are up to your expectations. For Mercedes those expectations must be that we are up there at every race competing for victory.” (Autocar)

The direction forward made clear

We don’t hear a lot from Dieter, so when he speaks, what he says carries all the greater significance. He is crystal clear that it was because the team had won but 1 race in 3 years the above changes have been made stating, “a new driver, new chairman and more to come”.

More to come? This apparently does not include budget. Nikki Lauda informed (AMGfans) website insists that the teams budget is only the 5th largest in F1, behind lotus, McLaren Ferrari and Red Bull  and TJ13 (Nov 19 2012) reported that he had requested an extra 50m euro’s from Stuttgart. He was told publicly in no uncertain terms by Zetsche that the 150m euro budget would remain constant.

However, In the past 12 months there has been a huge rebuilding going on in Brackley and who knows how much of this has come from Stuttgart’s in house engineering R&D budget. Much of the equipment, wind tunnel and other facilities are reported to be state of the art and there has also been a senior personnel recruitment programme of such scale, it was derided by Helmut Marko as delivering too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

What exactly is Mercedes problem?

What do the AMG F1 team then need to do? Examining Mercedes 2013 priorities James Allen observes, “Above all, it needs its aerodynamics team to raise its game and design a more competitive car from the outset.” (James Allen)

Yet Dieter Zetsche disagrees, “The real problem lay with the chassis and we are working on that” admits Dieter. “The coming season will probably not allow us to show the full effect of the changes, but in 2014 we will have a good shot at the championship, especially with the new engine rules,” he added.

I am convinced from what I’ve heard and read that Mercedes have been working on a long term chassis/suspension project that if they ever get it to work – could be a big game changer.

Niki Lauda alludes to the complex nature of this engineering technology on the same AMGfans fans page. “This complex car is really the main issue. The problem is that these highly intelligent ideas on some tracks work very well and go on some tracks they don’t.”

Amusingly one German writer in Auto Motor und Sport commented, “Mercedes have built a car as advanced as a spaceship – the problem is – there are no space ship races.”

What is this complex technology both are referring to? It may be a spot of history can help us here.

Active Ride/Suspension

For those of you who don’t remember the 80’s and 90’s there was a technology called active suspension which helped Williams dominate F1 for 2 years. It was born out of the banned ground effect technology where cars were sucked down onto the tarmac by creating a vacuum underneath the vehicle by way of hovercraft type skirts.

Ground effect was banned, but the idea of creating a suspension system to maximise the suspension settings for each corner was born. The cars used computer systems to adjust the independently active wheels to produce a theoretically perfect amount of resistance for each corner, allowing the car to run softer suspension at certain points of the track and harder in other places.

To cut a long story short, by 1991 Williams had mastered active suspension better than everyone else and brought the FW14B to the final round in Adelaide, yet terrible weather meant the team got no decent data.

F1Fanatic tells us, “But in the off-season they found the car was so astonishingly fast they wouldn’t need to run the FW15 at the beginning of the season. As it turned out, the FW15 wasn’t even needed until the next year.

At the first round of the 1992 season Mansell took pole position from Senna, in a conventional suspension McLaren, by 0.741s. The Englishman won the race by 24s from team mate Riccardo Patrese, who was in turn a further 10s ahead of Senna. It set the pattern for the season.

At the bumpy Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico Mansell’s qualifying advantage over the next non-Williams was 0.946s. At Interlagos the gap was 2.199s. At Catalunya, 1.005s – Williams were on a different plane. In front of his home crowd at Silverstone Mansell really wound it up and was on pole by 1.919s – from Patrese! Senna was 2.741s adrift and everyone else was at least three seconds slower.

The season was a Williams rout, and rival teams complained that the cost of researching and developing their own active suspension systems would be huge.

Active suspension was then banned.” (Full article on active suspension at F1Fanatic)

Mercedes legal 21st century version

Here and now is not the place to discuss the regulations, but suffice to say in the current climate of regulation enforcement, Ross Brawn is not going to set a complex project in motion that is clearly illegal.

I’ll attempt to explain Mercedes suspension project in layman’s terms. There is a damper system linking the 4 corners of the car by hydraulics – with the aim to control the pitch (forward and rearward movement – sometimes called dive and squat) and roll (side to side movement) of the car and ensure the tyres always run flat. This system was developed first in 2011 and refined for 2012.

Other teams connect their suspension front to rear, however the Mercedes system however has both side to side and corner to corner connectivity in addition. In 2012, they never fully got to grips with how this system affected the tyres and regularly when the tyres were removed after the running the car, all 4 were at completely different temperatures. When they tried to integrate the Coanda exhaust system later in the season this then amplified the problem, hence why Schumacher and Rosberg had such a miserable final run toward the end of the year

The Mercedes project continues

Dieter Zetsche’s comments make it clear that Mercedes will persist with the chassis and integrated suspension development and for all our sakes we should hope they can deliver, because  it will strike a blow at the aerodynamic obsession that delivers 80-90% of the incremental performance F1 teams crave at present.

After 2 failed years it would be reasonable to suggest Mercedes should forget the whole idea – but I read something last week that made me think. When the Mercedes engine’s division revealed their new 2014 engine to a select group of people. So secret is the programme, all mobile phones and  recording devices were confiscated prior the visitors being invited into the room.

So, the big news surrounding the revelation of the first of the new F1  engine’s of the future was pretty much reported as ‘sounding sweet’.Other journalists focused on the volume of the engine sound, like Sky’s David Croft who tweeted, “And don’t worry folks, the V6 engines will still be loud, so don’t forget your ear plugs when you go to the track in 2014 J”.

Bernie should be reassured and the V6 Turbo  doubters silenced, so the F1 world could sleep again at night. Mmm.

The effect of the V6 Turbo’s on 2014 car handling

I was interested in what Mercedes engine chief Andy Cowell had to say which was reported little and commented on not at all to my knowledge. He was countering a question from a journalist who was concerned about a statement from Ferrari suggesting their drivers may have to drive more slowly at certain races than was actually possible – just to complete the race on the 30% less fuel allowed for the engines.

Cowell said, “I don’t think we will go down that route. If you make inefficient engines, then yes, that will be the case. If you make efficient engines, then no. Overall, it’s about putting the motor back into motor sport.” And this is what hit my radar particularly, “Further, the extra torque will make the cars harder to handle coming out of the corners”.

Interestingly in the days of active ride, the cars were running turbo engines. So does the technology and rule changes for 2014 play into the hands of a team that has a futuristic chassis? Only time will tell.

Synergy for the manufacturer

One thing is certain. F1 wants to attract the likes of Audi, VW/Porsche, BMW et al, yet it appears so far the switch to V6 Turbo engines that have a greater synergy with road car technology has not been a large enough lure. A reduction in aerodynamic obsession and a return to traditional automotive engineering but with 21st century ideas may just do the trick.

It is not difficult to see why Mercedes F1 has pursued this path because for the Daimler-Benz global brand who have built their reputation on engineering, putting silly looking bits all over their cars -gurneys, triple decker airflow deflectors and monkey seats – has no relevance to the luxury and sports road cars they are promoting.

41 responses to “Mercedes F1: A return to traditional car engineering

  1. Interesting article. Two comments for now on it

    “Interestingly in the days of active ride, the cars were running turbo engines”

    I think re-active or adaptive ride would be a better description as the system that was pioneered by Lotus was fundamentally different from what Williams (Newey) would come up with. And unless I’m mistaken the only cars, turbo or otherwise, that used an adaptive system were Lotus and Williams. True active systems were never used in the turbo era.

    My second comment is that Mercedes spending millions to develop an active suspension system in F1 so that the technology can be transferred to road cars doesn’t make a lot of sense when that technology already exists and what you put in a road car doesn’t have to conform to any rules from the FIA.

    • You are correct re; ‘only 2 teams’ and I think Lotus dropped it in 89 or 90.
      To your second point, I’m really suggesting it may be interesting if there is a renewed emphasis on non aero engineering of F1 cars not the particular application Mercedes are developing – as you correctly point out, electronic versions are now in use on road cars.

      • Emphasis on ‘mechanical grip’ in F1 would be a good transfer to road cars as they are almost totally dependent on this so yes, if the teams had to concentrate on their chassis more it would be good. However, unless the FIA decide to drastically reduce the size of the wings – and consequently drastically increase lap times and slow cars down around the corners – then we are unlikely to see that to any great degree…

        • Also its not just ‘active ride’ or whatever you want to call it that is important, its the micro engineering that pushes new boundaries in delivering smaller components/elements of the bigger project. Nothing much is gained from Newey’s 10 different front wings they made last year.

          • “Nothing much is gained from Newey’s 10 different front wings they made last year.”

            Unless your only goal is winning the constructor’s or driver’s WC. Red Bull view F1 purely as a sport with the only goal being to win. And that brings us back to your comment about Rosberg and the need for more manufacturers in the sport. What is F1, a sport or a technology and branding opportunity for manufactures?

          • Fair point – but if we are ever to see 24-26 or even 28 cars again on the grid, it will require manufacturers to get involved.

            This of course opens up more opportunities for more drivers…

          • I see what you are saying, but my feeling is that unless F1 rules are changed to make aero a much smaller part of the package then there will be very limited cross-over between F1 chassis and road-car chassis.

            The potential aero gains are much larger than anything mechanical. Newey only produces 10 wings a season because the rules make that the best way to get performance gains.

            The same would apply even if Red Bull were the only non-manufacturer team in F1. If the larger gains are aero then Red Bull have no reason to look elsewhere and manufacturers will have to follow them to keep up.

            I’m not saying that more manufacturers won’t be good, just that to increase the transferrable benefits of having more manufacturers, the FIA need to tweak the rules to better suit them.

          • Hi TJ,

            maybe MB say the chassis (non saleable) needs work because novel suspension is stressing their chassis in unexpected ways (or something like that) and that to get the fine control they want from the suspension, the chassis needs fresh thought?

            Now as to non saleability of a chassis, I’ve bought enough components from household water furnaces to electronic parts that come with tech notes that say, “when installing, ensure your connecting blah blah blah meets the following tolerances”. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

            Double hmmm?

        • TJ’s point about ever seeing 28 cars on the grid again (I forget who noted the 2 wide versus old start staggers, but agree that was so much more fun to see) I think very closely relates to mechanical over than aero engineering. In that suspension parts I believe can be a bought in technology, and if Daimler / MB could make of this a component saleable to other teams, and put enough performance delta in having this suspension or not, then it could – possibly – encourage new entrants.

          As Virgin found out, base lining a CFD model against wind tunnel results is still very important. With a finite number of readily available tunnels, and the few up to top spec captive to near capacity utilisation, any notable shift in performance away from aero might accelerate new entrant development. Moreover, if suspension components can be sold without infringing the chassis design requirements for a manufacturer, MB can be selective, erode aero dominant teams with help from other cars, and as soon as you diminish the multiplier effects of any hugely expensive technology, it gets so much more quickly, less attractive a exercise.

          If anyone can interpret the manufacturer rules as they may apply to or prohibit what I am thinking about (with no knowledge of of the actual tech detail, so please allow me my drift) that’s be very cool.

          If the way I am dreaming this pans out, MB might be doing a massive favour to the sport. I still dream of cars being able to follow more closely to overtake, without DRS or KERS fixes.

          • It is interesting that MB talk about the chassis that needs the work – no mention of suspension which as you rightly point out is most likely a saleable item as is a fearbox or KERS. Mmm

      • I agree that non-aero development would allow teams to take different approaches to car design, unfortunately it would take a significant amount of rules changes from the FIA for this to happen. Engine development is banned, as are track / launch control, four wheel steering, McLaren’s second brake system, etc, etc.

  2. Great article, I love the technical stuff just as much as the intrigue…

    One thing, you say that there are only three engine manufacturers in F1. That lead me to think, who are Marussia with now? I thought they were still running Cosworth but I thought I’d seen somewhere about them changing to Merc power. Cosworth lost a customer when HRT went and there isn’t much sign of them developing a 2014 engine AFAIK so we seem to actually be down one supplier for 2014…

    Another commentor (commentator?) has already made the obvious point about the Merc ‘active ride’ system – it is no simpler or cheaper than the systems already developed for road use so any work on it is purely for sporting purposes.

    • I think my response to the other commentator and your post crossed.

      I meant 3 drom 2014 – sorry. Cosworth are still in for 2013, but were put up for Sale – they have a blueprint for a V6 Turbo but have not had the money to develop it

      • Who owns Cosworth these days? Was it Vickers they used to belong to?

        Any news on whether Marussia actually have a Concorde deal yet? I presume not having one doesn’t actually prevent them entering the races? Other than in financial terms of course.

        • No deal as yet for Marussia – as of last weekend according to Graeme Lowden.

          No they just don’t get any cash if they come 11th – nor do they get a ‘signing on fee’ like all the other teams.

          Cosworth owned by Rolls Royce

  3. I’ve haven’t read through the 2014 regulations but I have a feeling KERS will be the next big area for exploitation of the rules. Red Bull used engine mapping as a form of traction control this year and considering the flexability of KERS and the amount of power it delievers I imagine its only a matter of time before we start seeing that in KERS unless its explicitly outlawed in the regulations. I’m not fully convinced that Mercedes’ mechanical active ride system will be a breakthrough technology.

    • I believe KERS is part of the new engine – not a seperate unit from 2014. The cars will be geting about a 30-35 second 109HP boost per lap. Presently it is 6-7 secs and about 65HP

  4. Nicely written article TJ13.

    Good information, well-threaded and direct links to source material. Keep it up 🙂

  5. Great article tj13. I personally loved the ground effect era and would like to see a return to something similar.

    The reduction of cylinders in the formula isn’t a huge issue. I dont think we will notice too much if at all.

    In Australia v8 are a popular engine in locally produced cars – our supercar series is quite successful and it is only between 2 manufacturers. The game changes this year with Nissan and Mercedes joining the category and all in spec cars. Will be worth while taking notes I think to see how it unfolds and the reaction of the fans and whether anyone makes money from the series.

    • I agree with you Lmbrjk – I loved the ground effect era.

      Personally I think they should bring it back, along with active suspension, traction control, four wheel drive, ABS, etc ….. in fact everything you can get on a modern road car.

      That might entice manufacturers ?

      • I want NITROS and Ben Hur blades too 🙂

        Seriously, there is an argument for no reg’s at all – but budgets must be capped and enforced.

        I know its impossible but how good would it be?

        • But this technology already exists on road cars, so the financial costs would be minimal.

          And with ground effect you’d eliminate all the costs involved in trying to find minute areo improvements as we have at present.

          With ground effect you have an excess of downforce. Remember how most of the cars didn’t run with front wings and had very small rear wings which were more for “trimming” the car than producing downforce.

          So you wouldn’t have teams spending money on double diffusers, DDRS, F-ducts, active blowing of diffusers, coanda exhausts, and a million and one diffents front wings, turning vanes, etc., etc., etc. …..

          How much money would that save ?

          I bet that that what I suggested would be about a tenth of the cost of todays aerodynamic arms race. If the FIA and the teams want to cut costs – this is the way to do it. Not stupid regulations and RRA’s that no one can agree on and can’t be policed anyway.

          And you’d end up with a more level playing field as even the smallest teams would be able to produce cars closer in performance to the top teams.

          This isn’t the 1970’s or 80’s when Lotus & Williams out engineered the other teams. All of this technology is now well known and available.

          • Hello ‘mankyboy’… [cute monika…]
            I am most definitely with you on this one…!
            For many years I’ve felt that F1 (and, indeed, the entire Western world…) is over-regulated… but it will take a VERY brave person/organisation to go back to basics, start again, and just simplify everything.
            It often used to be the case that F1 fans derided IndyCars (for example) because ‘we’ were at the forefront of technical development, for the benefit of the automotive industry but now it seems this is simply not the case – and the industry is barely interested in F1.

            I am not enamoured of the Indy cars all being the same (dreadful policy) but, for interest and excitement – i.e. motor-sport – give me the Indy 500 anytime to Bahrain…

          • BlackJackFan, what would you say to the idea that rules and regs should have a half – life, and all underutilised rules be suspended or struck, after say 5 years?

            I imagine that without a careful review of what can be “half – lifed” safely, there would be too much risk. But set safety firmly apart from a expiration stage, and I imagine quite a lot could be dropped or put on a probationary retirement path. The real possibility of rule and reg simplification might even open a window for new entrants. My possibly fantastical idea is that every so often, but on a known timetable, there would be elasticity in the envelope, and that would encourage the emergence of real new design. Quite sure, with the sheer volume of regs on the books, there’d be some interesting game theory plays in design planning.

          • Exactly – active ride was supposedly banned because of the excessive cornering speeds and the risk of failure of a hydraulic pushing some 2500psi – but the cars were crash tested to about 1% of the standard they are now – the half life rule subject to safety would allow it back now.

            I vote John (other John) to replace Jean 🙂

          • Hi John(oJ)
            I invariably enjoy your posts and like your ‘shelf-life’ proposition. Of course I accept safety regs. as something else but I just feel things like ‘active suspension’ should be allowable in F1 and rules ought not to be changed (often ‘over night’) just because some Luddite doesn’t want to compete, and claims it’s going to be expensive…

            As I hinted above, if cost is going to become the main driving force (with technology ignored) F1 might as well take the IndyCar approach… It doesn’t look ‘right’ to have just one car design but… at least the racing and excitement can be as good as F1 can offer… and it also seems to appeal to the youngsters that F1 appears to have lost…

          • Hi BlackJackFan,

            Do you know a UK television programme called Scrap Heap Challenge? It’s rather fun. You get teams competing to engineer some workable transport machine from a finite set of (really rather excellent) scrap parts on a lot. I wish we could do the same in F1, just the once. As in lock the lot of them in a – naturally wonderful – warehouse of parts, and give them all a finite time to complete their designs.

            Now, that really is dreaming. But I propose RRR as opposed to RRA, a acronym for Real Resource Reckoning. Let all the suppliers send their stashes of good stuff in, build a whopping hanger to hold it all, and every team has a side “shed” to go do their stuff.

            I’m in a fanciful mood today. So I would call it Formula Reckoning.

            My “shelf life” proposition comes from one practical thing as a kiddo: parents insisting I didn’t keep so much “junk” about if I didn’t finish a project inside so many years (Electronics geek, learned early how to blag samples from, e.g. TI) and from a more mature observation that rules of behaviour need a refresh more frequently than most of us are keen to go for.

            Love your handle / nick name. Edward O. Thorp fan here!

            ~ joj

          • “…rules of behaviour need a refresh more frequently than most of us are keen to go for.”
            Amen to that – human nature, I suppose…

            “Scrap Heap Challenge”
            Haven’t seen it for a few years but used to love it – especially the team of middle-aged bikers who had such a great sense of humour. But, put all the F1 boffins in a warehouse and you can just hear the cries of, “Unfair…!” and, “Their parts are too expensive…!”

            I don’t know how far back you go but here’s one for you…
            Do you remember the legendary Denis Jenkinson doing a Boxing Day lap of Brands Hatch… in a motorised cast-iron bathtub…? And no wings, although I believe the taps (faucets…USA) were directed at the ball & claw feet…

            “Edward O. Thorp”
            Sounds like an Irish Liberal…

            Best wishes – BJF.

          • OK, so I just looked it up… and ‘Teddie O’Thorp’ was the inventor of the blackjack card game…
            But, I’m sorry to say, my moniker is more connected to F1…

          • Hi BJF,

            sorry I got the card game reference all the wrong way, Thorpe is better known to me for being the (somewhat primordial) origin of modern option pricing theory, but I used to play Black Jack almost obsessively, so couldn’t help but to make some reference. He was a maths prof. IIRC, and the black jack was a real world test to count cards in Vegas, must dig his book out again – it corrupted me thoroughly as a kiddo.

            Definitely remember reading Jenks, though TBH I thought he passed before he did (just looked up to check i’m not going funny) because I remember his name from my childhood, and then a blank entirely, I guess he had mainly retired by the time I was in my late teens. Sadly, no recollection of his bath tub lap. I hope someone has footage somewhere.

            Those biker guys were wholesome fun to see. It’s only the past year I’ve had a telly again, most of a decade of abstinence (races watched with friends), so scraping up the memory.

            I am quite sure you’re right about the bickering that would take place if F1 dev teams had to work from the same supplies, you nailed it right there!

            all best ~ joj

  6. Cosworth aren’t owned by Rolls Royce aka BMW –

    In 1998, Vickers sold Cosworth and Pi Research to Ford. In September, 2004 Ford announced that it was selling Cosworth and Pi Research, along with Cosworth Racing Ltd ….

    On 15 November 2004, the sale of Cosworth was completed, to Champ Car World Series owners Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven, the current Cosworth Group.

    The road car engine aspect of the business was split from the racing division following the sale of the engineering division of Cosworth to VW/Audi in September 1998 and renamed Cosworth Technology, before being acquired by Mahle GmbH in 2005. Cosworth Technology was then renamed as MAHLE Powertrain on 1 July 2005

    I’m sure they got caught up in the fallout over the VW buying Rolls Royce fiasco which is maybe why you thought they were ?


    • You’re right – they have contracts with RR aerospace and it was rumoured a while back that RR would acquire them – but it didn’t happen.

      Teach me to answer questions off the cuff on my wordpress mobile app when in a taxi who hasn’t got a clue where he’s going 🙂

      But hey, this is an F1 community, and I love it that TJ13 readers are so knowledgeable and give me info I don’t have – or have forgotten.

      Checking every detail online to respond to a comment would be impossible – I have to shoot from memory at times – and at my age it’s not as bad as Bernies….but.

      • I thought they’d been aquired by BMW in the RR deal. It was only on checking Wiki that I discovered I got it wrong as well 🙂

    • The RR&BMC / VW / BMW fiasco was even more fun, there was a game of musical chairs at board level, twixt VW and BMW, after all that. I only take this thought as a silly one, but I don’t think Piech ever really wanted Rolls Royce Motor Cars, but I don’t think it would ever have fit with the man’s style. At the time, RR&BMC was a customer, and for once the dissembling from their marketing people was in fact genuine confusion. Wish I’d have made more of that somehow. I was told, as definitely as one may be whilst avoiding direct or on record answers, in ’99, they were going to make vroom vroom noises for real, but when I asked more his face was genuinely contorted in wry consternation, because in hindsight he likely knew already the companies were to be split, (one imagines Piech whispering sweet racing noises, but the Quandt board sending others) no doubt wondering on which side he would land.

      • Hi John – from the rumours about at the time that I heard ( which ties in with what you said ), it wasn’t about Piech wanting RR but about not wanting BMW to get it. They weren’t bothered if another manufacturer had been interested.

        Maybe you could confirm this was around the time when VW were buying up BMW shares in an attept at a hostile takeover ?

        VW, Mercedes, Porsche & Audi are essentially all part of the same “family”.

        BMW was the “outsider” to this family – and there was no love lost between these two groups.

        • Hi mankyboy, may you find a warm soapy bath, or as Peter Sellers said in The Return of The Pink Panther, arriving at a Gstaad hotel, to the bellboy “If you do this right, I will make you a manky – man” [sic] sorry, pal, couldn’t help myself 😉

          I really can’t confirm the coincidence, as we were in the middle of a deal that got, erm, embarrassing, though my BP spoke to Joanna that year, and we talked quite a bit to various people, it was so disconnected with what you ask about, we only observed the politicking because it was “getting in the way” of us doing a unrelated job. For reasons that could fill a book, this year, we’re on Take Two of the similar deal, and so since water under the bridge, I might get to ask about.

          Definitely no love lost between BMW and the other crowd, despite their saliva trail of kissing boards, I’m thinking sloppy seconds on the moves around that time. But usually it’s Daimler who are the prigs who won’t join the dance.

          ‘Fraid I’ll have to wait see if anyone will ever say anything. I am studiously maintaining that all that nonsense that year was the reason my company ended up embarrassed, because what were we to know? I mean the guy who signed a deal with us was suddenly at a rival firm. There’s more, but I’d rather save my face, in case we can reprieve ourselves and profit a little.

    • Yup, Rolls Royce is very different from the motor car company bearing the similar name. It surely would be sad if the motor company ever folded, but take away the “real” Rolls Royce company, and you’d gut British industry.

      There’s a comparable one that sometimes confuses. Leica Camera do not own the Leica name. That Mark is owned by a technology group that is more involved with geo sciences, microscopy, measurement and tools for surveying and engineering.

  7. I sadly missed this post on it’s inception but I’ll add my own thoughts now: I have written in the past about Mercedes and their various failings from both their inception and the adoption of the team from Brawn/Honda:

    Their failings throughout 2012 were compounded by their move from 50% scale modelling to 60% putting the team in a position whereby they were unable to effectively improve upon the design. This lead to their updates only really appearing in larger step changes / batches and as we all know in F1 when you standstill you fall behind. The Wind Tunnel change however was a necessary evil and needed to be done at some stage as the difference between 50 & 60% scaling is demonstrable. (Especially when down to fine detail as the parts not only become more difficult to manufacturer but the results will vary)

    As thejudge has pointed out Mercedes have indeed been working on an interlinking suspension that tries to counter for all four corners of the car rather than just the heave interlinked suspensions the likes of Red Bull and Lotus have. As we saw in 2012 the Pirelli tyres also caused bewilderment up and down the grid with predominantly the front tyres giving the largest headache. The construction of the tyres lead to a more stiff sidewall meaning that using tyre pressures and temperatures that the teams had been used to in the past were now defunct. This is why we saw tyres wearing on the shoulders when teams were effectively running under prescribed pressures (like they were used to) causing the central portion of the tyre to sink reducing the contact patch. This obviously lead to higher wear rates but also unpredictability as the tyre wear models the teams work with had to be thrown out of the window.

    In my opinion their other un-doing was DDRS (Double DRS) which may have worked had the tyre issue above not befallen the team. The reason why? Centre of Pressure: Aerodynamic changes to an F1 car will always alter a cars centre of pressure and so what works for one team cannot simply be retro engineered and fitted to another. Packaging of course also plays it’s role when we look at things like exhausts but a shift in aero must be balanced from the front to the back of a car to make for an effective design. Point in case is Red Bull, their late charge at the end of 2012 came with not only their own version of DDRS (Reducing drag on the Beam Wing) the team also made adjustments to the Front Wing design and their exhaust/cross under tunnel. Thus balancing the effects created by the opportunity of running DDRS. Going back to Mercedes their DDRS which simultaneously reduced drag at the front of the car and the rear also wreaked havoc with the cars hole aerodynamic platform. Some speculation involved in this next sentence but it’s worth understanding that as a car slows (ie under braking) downforce generated by the wings is essential and so with both the Front and Rear Wing coming out of a stall from DDRS you could encounter re-attachment issues. (This is when the airflow approaching the Wing takes time to become effective again)

    So in summary 2012 was a strange year for Mercedes not helped by their infrastructure changes and adoption of DDRS. Perhaps had the team dropped DDRS use early into 2012 they could have got on top of their tyre issues and concentrated the limited development scope they had on a ‘Coanda’ styled exhaust. Instead however they stuck with it and complicated matters aero wise by introducing the ‘Coanda’ exhaust even though it’s properties would be drastically altered every time (D)DRS was in use. This is why Red Bull’s adoption of the system was clever as it didn’t impinge as heavily on the whole car’s aerodynamics.

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