Mercedes tech chief cagey over where team have spent development tokens on 2021 car
Mercedes are keeping their cards close to their chest ahead of their two title defences in 2021, with their Technical Director James Allison choosing not reveal where the Silver Arrows have spent their two development tokens on the new car – and explaining that the launch car does not feature some aerodynamic features that will be on the race car, in a bid to prevent rivals from copying them before the season starts.
The regulations dictate the carryover of a large number of parts from last year to the current campaign – such as the chassis – but teams were given two ‘tokens’ to spend on changes.
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While there are sweeping changes to the rules regarding the floor, the relative stability elsewhere has seen teams go to impressive lengths to limit what they reveal of their new cars. Williams did a shakedown without revealing sight of their new car, while Red Bull released just two renders and also did not release imagery of their 2021 challenger on track at their shakedown.
So it’s perhaps unsurprising to see Mercedes are being secretive about the W12, too, as is their prerogative.
“What’s carried over will look different from team to team, because the rules didn’t require you to carry over the same things,” said Allison. “The rules freeze a large chunk of the car, but then give each team two tokens to spend on changing their car. Along with the tokens comes a shopping list showing how many tokens are required for each change. How teams decided what to use their tokens on was entirely up to them.
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“In addition, there are some parts of the car that you can change token-free, for example the Power Unit, the cooling systems, the suspension and of course all of the aerodynamic surfaces. We have spent our tokens, but we won’t reveal how we used them just yet. That’ll become clear in good time.
“Once the racing gets underway, pretty much everything under the skin of the car must then be frozen for the entire year. With the specific permission of the FIA, you can make changes for reliability or cost saving, but if part of your car isn’t performing well, then you are stuck with it for the whole season.”
During the team's live video launch of the new car, Allison also divulged that they were keeping some key aerodynamic developments on the W12 under wraps, to prevent rivals teams from getting a good look before the new season gets under way.
"It doesn’t take much more than a glance to see that [the W12] is an old friend in many ways: same monocoque as last year, same gearbox as last year, lots of the same structure underneath as last year," he said.
"But look a little closer and you’ll also see some fairly significant differences. Just a glance at the sidepod and you’ll see a rather sexy looking bulge on the engine cover, which is hiding some of the work that our friends at HPP have done to squeeze more horses into that power unit for us for the year.
"And across the whole car, it is actually dressed in new clothes, new aerodynamic finery, that we hope will make it a successful car.
"The bit we’re not showing you is down along the edge of the floor. That area is the area that was most affected by the new regulations where they tried to pull performance away from the car by changing the floor regs. And down there, there’s a bunch of aerodynamic detail that we are not quite ready to release to the world – not because it’s not there, but because we don’t want our competitors to see it, we don’t want them starting to try and put similar things in their wind tunnels. It just buys us a couple of weeks extra."
Mercedes, who launched the W12 at their factory – rather than Silverstone as they has become the norm in recent years – will get the car on track for the first time at Bahrain testing on March 12.