The team principals had widely announced it: the innovations established by the Federation regarding the rear area of the cars (i.e. the reduced size of the bottom to reduce the aerodynamic load generated by the single-seaters) would have had a impact more significant than might have been expected. If in 2020 Mercedes had easily controlled the progress of the championship from the usual privileged position, after nine races in 2021 the Brackley team finds itself chasing Red Bull in the constructors’ standings behind by 44 points and Lewis Hamilton must recover. 32 to Max Verstappen in the race for the drivers’ title.
Regulations: all the news for 2021
Certainly the RB16-B represents a significant step forward compared to the 2020 car brought to the track by the Milton Keynes team, but according to the former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley Mercedes has taken a step back more than Red Bull has taken a step forward. The reason is simple and can be traced back to the regulatory changes that have most affected the cars conceived according to a low rake philosophy, that is, a little marked difference between the height from the ground of the front axle of the single-seater compared to the height of the rear axle.
The Mercedes-Aston Martin retaliation
“The new rules have had a negative impact on low-rake cars – Priestley explained in his personal podcast published on Youtube – in high-rake cars the distance between the bottom of the car and the brake air intakes is significantly reduced compared to that which exists in low-rake cars. The interaction between the bottom of the car and the brake air intakes is very important. The issue is that this problem that has arisen cannot be solved overnight, otherwise Mercedes would have done so already and for a long time. Brackley’s team technicians can’t just raise the rear of the car to bring it closer to the brake vents, because everything else on the car has been designed with a low-rake philosophy. If you change the height of the rear axle, the front wing no longer works as it should and the same goes for the area of the flow deviators (bargeboards) ”.
The rake dilemma
Evidently, with all the amount of work that the 2022 project based on a completely new regulation requires, the Mercedes technicians have assessed that they cannot afford a complete recalibration of the W12 in light of the consequences resulting from the 2021 regulation which penalized low-rake cars such as Mercedes.