Another year, another Formula One season. With race day of the Australian Grand Prix approaching and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in pole position to win the face race of the season, it seems as if it is back to status quo in the world. So dominant was Mercedes last season that Hamilton and Rosberg from the Daimler stable did a one-two in the 2016 driver standings, with winner Rosberg coming in at more than 100 points more than Daniel Ricciardo who came in third place. Today, we take a look at the W08 Hybrid, the next generation vehicle from Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport that looks set to drive Hamilton and his new teammate Valtteri Bottas to the top again this year.
Ever since the F1’s switch to hybrid turbo engines in 2014, Mercedes have overtaken Red Bull as the dominant force in Formula One, winning three consecutive Drivers and Constructors Championships and 51 out of a possible 59 races. There seems to be little in the way of Mercedes as it marches towards a fourth successive title, and the W08 serves as a signal of that very intent. Unveiled in Silverstone as the “most detailed car we have ever built as a team” by Hamilton, the W08 is the successor to the W07 that claimed a historic 19 victories last season.
The W08 EQ Power+, as it is fully called, has been designed to maximise the performance opportunities offered by radically different aerodynamic regulations for the 2017 season, Mercedes claims. Built to accommodate these new changes, the W08 is both wider and lower than before, with an extremely compact rear to make for a sleek beast. Mercedes have done so much research and development over the off-season that only 17% of the components of the W08 have been carried over from the W07.
The main focus of the team this season has been optimising the car within the new aerodynamic regulations, betting on its work in the wind tunnel to be the trump card in the season ahead. Under the new Aerodynamic Testing Regulations, each team has been limited to the same maximum amount of wind tunnel testing, 65 runs per week. Despite this, the team still managed to complete over 2,000 runs during the development phase, and the first W08 concept was well acquainted with the Mercedes wind tunnel before hitting the tarmac. As a result of the extensive research, Mercedes has worked on optimising the floor and barge board area in front of the side pods to withstand increased aerodynamic and mechanical loads in addition to a newly designed front and rear wing.
The power unit, the M08, has also been given a refresh for the new season. Here, the primary focus has been on the internal combustion process, with the 1.6 litre six cylinder engine capable of a max exhaust turbine rpm of 125,000. The new aerodynamic regulations have also had a significant impact on the design of the engine, which must now be able to accommodate significantly greater physical loads. As a result, it weighs in heavier than before, coming in at 145kg. With this increase also comes an increased duty cycle, with the cars expected to spend 10% more of every lap at full throttle. The M08 has also been designed to ensure maximum durability, with only four power units allowed for each driver throughout the season under new regulations.
According to team head Toto Wolff, the dominant feeling in the team over the W08, and the season ahead, is one of excitement. With last years world champion Nico Rosberg unexpectedly retiring at the pinnacle of the sport, Mercedes had much to do in the offseason, recruiting a highly rated racer in Bottas while ensuring the continued development of the W08. Designed to take full advantage of the current regulations, while maintaining the flexibility to allow for quick and major developments in-season, it remains to be seen if Mercedes can fend off the challenge of Red Bull once more. With the W08 and Mr. Hamilton behind the wheel, however, it just might be foolish to bet against them.