Main rival Ferrari struggled in Melbourne, unable to get enough load on at the front of the car. This compromised set-up and didn’t allow the SF90 to exploit the performance of the tyres.
Mercedes faced one of its long-standing demons head on: It was able to switch on the tyres and keep them in their working range. This can be attributed to their car being well-suited to the track and conditions but it’s also worth noting that the team brought forward a number of updates intended for the Chinese GP to help it unlock the W10’s potential.
Front wing battleground
Mark Sutton / Sutton Images
Two schools of thought have arisen when it comes to the overall concept of the 2019 front wings, with Mercedes and Ferrari at either end of the spectrum. Neither particularly has merits that the other does not when we consider they have to operate over a wide array of conditions but, as we’ve seen in the past there undoubtedly will be a convergence point.
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The B-spec Mercedes that arrived at the second Barcelona test featured a cut out at the rear of the endplate, while the position of the under wing strakes and the shape of the footplate were also changed. For Australia, Mercedes altered the outer portion of the wing stack, making an ad-hoc change at the circuit that required stitching the flaps into a lower position. This modifies the behaviour of the airflow, clearly an attempt by the designers to adjust the shape of the wake created by the tyre behind it, and in doing so improve flow downstream.
Front brake duct enlarged
Mercedes has trampled on the intention of the new brake duct regulations by placing winglets, albeit smaller, in the lower section of the fence (blue arrow), aided by the fact that the fence has been made concave in shape to circumvent the bounding rules.
It has employed a much larger brake cooling inlet this season – an odd decision given the blown axle has been banned and, up until now, it had never felt the need to use one. But with the new regulations reducing the outwash effect, Mercedes has settled on a solution that falls somewhere in the middle.
This image, taken while the W10 was being put together, suggests that the team is using the enlarged inlet to transport airflow through pipework that is then filtered out through the face of the wheel rim. This trick won’t be as powerful as the blown axles that preceded it but should help with the wake control losses that the front wing has sustained.
To counteract the negative airflow structures that come as a result of the larger inlet the designers have also used a bulbous shroud on the outermost part of the pushrod (arrowed on the previous illustration).
Extra sidepod flap
Dirk Klynsmith / Sutton Images
This might seem like a very small change, but in order to get the most from the changes made upstream the team positioned an additional flap on the edge of the floor (red arrow), improving flow stability as the airflow migrates around the sidepod.
There was an intriguing new DRS actuator pod, featuring serrations on its trailing edge. Mercedes has used serrated trip strips on front and rear wings to improve performance. The pod is always designed to be as aero-neutral as possible, as this can have an unwanted impact on the performance of the wing. The serrations will act like a damper, with airflow poised to become pretty chaotic around the pod given its ordinarily blunt trailing edge. The team may have seen this as problematic for 2019, given the increase depth of the wing and, with it, the larger DRS effect.
Zak Mauger / LAT Images
We also have to consider that without the teams being able to use the tip vortex bending louvres on the forward part of the endplate the rear wing is more loaded, as the air is being crushed into a more volatile vortex at the endplate and flap juncture, creating the visible trail seen above.
Mark Sutton / Sutton Images
Where the old DRS pod cavity had just a flat surface, the new serrated version tilts down toward the face of the top flap, suggesting that it's also looking for a helping hand in terms of the airflow attachment, with a momentary loss of downforce occurring when the DRS closes under braking ordinarily a factor in upsetting the balance of the car.