Mercedes F1 team facing a difficult balancing act this year
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON - Formula One champion Mercedes will tread a fine line this season between defending its titles and planning for next year's 'seismic' rule changes, technical director James Allison said earlier this week when the team unveiled its new car.
The team has won the past seven drivers' and constructors' championships and Lewis Hamilton is chasing a record eighth crown.
"We will walk a tightrope all year between doing enough to be competitive in 2021 and putting as much as we dare into 2022," said Allison at the launch of the new W12 car.
"Managing the bird in the hand and the one in the bush is the eternal challenge of F1 and doing so in the face of both the cost cap and the completely new 2022 technical regulations will be a challenge like no other."
Allison said the ideal situation would be a car so fast from the outset that the focus could be on next year's almost immediately.
Mercedes have had to make significant aerodynamic changes this year under rules designed to slow the cars down for safety reasons.
Much of the car remains the same as last year's, however, as part of measures to cut costs and help teams weather the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cars are allowed to be 6kg heavier but Mercedes has weight in hand as a result of its DAS steering system being banned.
Mercedes must make do with 22% less access to the wind tunnel and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) than last-placed Williams under new Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions (ATR) that serve as an effective handicap for the most successful teams.
"There's nothing like having a new constraint imposed to renew the spur to become more productive and efficient," said Allison.
"We are determined to find better ways of working so that we can mitigate the effect of this handicapping."