A Look at the Mercedes-AMG F1 2020 Updates

Mercedes aims to stretch its F1 domination to seven straight championships with a car it says is better than last year's championship winner, thanks, in part, to a steering wheel that moves fore and aft in addition to turning left and right.
  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    Reigning seven-time Formula 1 champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team are not coasting into the 2020 season, which is the last one under the current set of technical regulations. Instead, the team shocked observers, who spotted drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtieri Bottas tugging at a moving steering column that extended backward while they were driving

    This Dual Axis Steering system, which lets the driver adjust the toe angle of the front tires to reduce drag on long straights, is only one of many innovations in the car, as explained by James Allison, technical director, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team.

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    "It just introduces an extra dimension of the steering for the driver that we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it, why we use it, that’s something we’d prefer to keep to ourselves.

    This isn’t news to the FIA. It is something we’ve been talking to them about for some time. The rules are pretty clear about what is permitted on steering systems and we are pretty confident that it matches all of those requirements."

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    "I think that one of the things that is perhaps not greatly appreciated is that each of the new cars that we bring to the track are just festooned with innovation. It is just they are not always as obvious to you as a discrete, stand-alone system like this, where you can see it with your own eyes.

    In a year when the regulations are completely stable, and the tires haven’t changed one little bit, how do we take last year’s best car and produce something that’s properly competitive when the regulations haven’t changed.

    The temptation for us is just to keep polishing that one. After all, it finished the season really strongly and it was developing really fast all the way through the year. There’s still lots of opportunity to make that one quicker. That conservative approach was very, very tempting."

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    But in the end, we decided that wouldn’t be enough. Feeling the breath of our opponents on our shoulders, we know their hunger. We know that if we don’t do something impressive with this car, they’ll eat us up and leave us behind.  So we decided we would make a car that was aggressive, despite the fact that there is no change in the regulations, we would take every part of the car and see if we could challenge ourselves to make it better. 

    At the front, first of all, we’ve changed a lot of the structure of the front corners; made it harder for ourselves structurally, much harder to take the forces, but we’ve rearranged the details inside the wheels and the way the suspension goes into those wheels so we have more aerodynamic opportunity in the front end."

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    "In the middle of the car, a couple of things. First of all, something that is pretty familiar to the sport because actually many teams have already adopted this. That is, we’ve moved the side impact structure from its upper position we’ve had for the last three seasons, we’ve moved it to a lower position, something which many teams have already done and something that we’ve been watching on from afar, but this year we decided to make the structural investment to pull that into our car and to reap the aerodynamic gain that comes with it."

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    "Also in the middle of the car, for the third year straight, they’ve bent over backwards to gives us opportunities on the chassis side to develop better aerodynamics. They’ve put a lot of work in to make it so this power unit could operate at elevated temperatures compared to the previous year. Being able to run hotter means that for the same everything else, we can make smaller radiators in the car and keep the car cool. One of the reasons why this car is even slimmer than the ones that we’ve seen in previous seasons. 

    Last year’s chassis would have stuck way out the side of this bodywork. But this years one: narrower still."

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    "And then, finally, at the back of the car. The rear suspension on this car is extremely adventurous. Specifically, on the lower rear wishbone, we’ve put a new geometry in there that gives us more aerodynamic opportunity, allows us to get more downforce on the car. 

    Taken together, all these investments that I’ve been describing; none of them are easy. And nearly all of them are a structural compromise, where we’ve had to put weight on the front, in the middle and at the back of the car in order to realize these gains. And that weight has had to be paid for by hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of small innovations by other designers who have managed to save the weight that has allowed us to buy each of these investments."

  • Image source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    "We’ve got a car here that is streaks ahead of that one in terms of downforce. We’ve got a car here whose development slope has kicked up, is steeper, than the one we finished last year with in that very, very good car from 2019. We’ve got a car here that we hope will be fertile ground to develop strongly all the way through the 2020 season."

Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.

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