Mercedes have officially unveiled their new car at Silverstone - and in an ominous warning to the rest of the grid, Lewis Hamilton has declared it 'better than last year's car in every aspect'.
World champions Mercedes officially unveil 'much improved' new car
According to the reigning world champion, the elaborately named Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ is an evolution of the car that won 12 races and took 15 pole positions in 2017, taking him to his fourth drivers’ crown as the Silver Arrows simultaneously secured a fourth straight constructors’ title.
"Last year the car was fantastic, but there were so many things we could still improve on," said Hamilton. "What we’ve done is taken a lot of the DNA from last year’s car - this is the sister car, an evolution of that.
"This is better than last year’s car in every aspect. It looks quite similar but inside, underneath the shell, and even the bodywork, it’s all refined to perform even better than it did last year.
"I’m really excited because there were some races - like Silverstone - that were very successful for us, but then there were some races where we struggled. Understanding where our weaknesses were and then working on them has been at the forefront of our goals and minds.
"The engineers have done a phenomenal job – I’m really proud and grateful for all the hard work that’s gone in. I’m fit and ready to take [the new car] where it needs to go."
Positive first impressions
The W09 was presented to the world’s media following an earlier shakedown run on Silverstone’s International Circuit, with Valtteri Bottas giving the car its maiden outing ahead of a similar familiarisation stint for Hamilton in the afternoon.
Running on demonstration tyres on a damp track, the Finn said it was hard to glean too much but that the new car 'felt good'.
"The conditions are what they normally are at Silverstone at this time of the year, but everything was working well," he said. "The car felt good and the engine was running well, so it's a start."
"All the hard work, all the long hours over the winter have brought the car to life," added team chief Toto Wolff. "Doing the first laps and seeing the car is working ok is a very exciting moment.
"We won the championship last year but it was difficult at times, some really strong opposition. We needed to find the right balance between developing our car without losing its raw speed. Last year’s car was the fastest car on track – it won the most races and had the most pole positions. We needed to preserve that."
Taming a diva
The 2017 Silver Arrow was affectionately dubbed a ‘diva’ within the team for its occasional lack of predictability, but according to Technical Director James Allison, this year’s machine should be easier to handle.
"Last year's car was never easy to work with, even at the tracks where we were strong," he said. "We could find our way through the weekend to a competitive outcome, but it was never easy. We hope that we have made some inroads into that and that this year's car will speak to us as engineers and to the drivers a little more clearly so that it is more obvious what to do to dial it in."
"Across the board, this design is more elegant than last year," he added. "Last year's regulations were brand new and we weren't quite sure which direction they would take us in. So last year's car had a certain amount of wiggle room to adapt if we had found that we needed to move around certain aspects of the car. This year, being a little more confident of what we're aiming for, we've been able to commit more fully to certain concepts. So we have the packaging much tighter and have taken things to more of an extreme."
__Significant updates to the power unit __
In addition to chassis changes, Mercedes say they have made major upgrades to their power unit in response to the reduction in the number of power unit components that can be used by each driver this season.
"The amount of change on the power unit for this year is quite considerable and driven by a number of requirements," explained Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains.
"The biggest challenge we've got is lifting our durability limit with the challenge of racing just three engines per driver per championship and two ERS systems. That's a 40 per cent increase in the distance that the hardware needs to do for this year compared with last year. We focused on trying to increase the life of the hardware without losing performance.
"We also wanted to change the packaging of the power unit for the benefit of overall car performance.
"We've been working very closely with our colleagues in Brackley, trying to understand the best overall integration in the chassis, the transmission and the aerodynamic surfaces. We've also been working on combustion efficiency and hardware friction reduction in partnership with Petronas."
Mercedes will get a first chance to assess the true pace of the W09 when pre-season testing gets underway in Barcelona, Spain, next week.