One of the more notable aspects of the 2017 season was the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari. Two very different car concepts toing and froing throughout the year.
The 2017 Mercedes W08 EQ Power, long wheelbase and an evolution from previous models evident in its sleek lines along with heavily revised aerodynamics. And there was the Ferrari SF70, stubbier, purposeful, with it’s unique sidepod arrangement.
The general consensus highlighted that during the first half of the season Mercedes had a serious challenger with Ferrari and depending on the circuit, wasn’t as fast on race day. The W08 was clearly tricky to find the ‘sweet spot’ when looking for a set up admitted Bottas back in June:
“I think it [the W08] is sensitive in general mechanically and aero wise as well. Everything is done in such fine detail that if you get it right it is the fastest car on the grid; if not it is more tricky.”
Ferrari’s scored a technical coup de gras before testing began last year when they questioned the trick FRIC esq suspension they didn’t possess; that was surely the reason behind the concept of the W08 (and the Red Bull). The subsequent ban imposed by the FIA after the ‘clarification request’ is likely a reason for the set up sensitivity of the Mercedes car but what was clear that the W08’s long wheelbase did give the Silver Arrows team an overall advantage on balance over the season. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was convinced that the benefits on high speeds circuits far outweigh any downside it suffers on Formula 1’s tight and narrow tracks, despite early-season struggles on tracks such as Monaco.
“With the new regulations, the wider tyres, and the loads on the suspension, it was a concept we followed. Now we have the longest car. It might disadvantage us on narrow street circuits, but the disadvantage is tiny compared to the advantage that we generate on large high speed race tracks.”
“Overall it is about finding the best compromise in a race car for 20 races, and not optimising it for one single race. We have seen that in the past, some teams are very competitive just in Monaco, or they are very competitive at Monza or Spa. So it is about the compromise.”
Whispers in Maranello allude that the Scuderia have taken note and will be making changes to their 2018 challenger with a longer wheelbase (between 6 to 10cm) with revised radiators, aimed at improving the aero-efficiency of the car. Last year Ferrari were truly beaten at the high speed circuits of Monza and Silverstone where they were unable to shed sufficient drag to keep up with the Silver Arrows. Their intention is to address that issue along with a better average pace across the season.
Odds on Red Bull set to dominate Monaco and Singapore anyone?