Mercedes’ airbox bulge explained

The Mercedes W12 sports a bulge on its engine cover

Mercedes technical boss James Allison has explained why his team’s 2021 Formula 1 contender, the W12, features a new hump on the engine cover.

Teams are set to carry largely unchanged cars into the new season in response to the pandemic’s effects on the sport.

One notable difference between last year’s Mercedes W11 and the W12 car is a hump on the airbox.

According to Allison, that is the result of development and associated repackaging of the power unit.

“It’s probably most obvious to an external observer in that big bulge,” he admitted.

“There’s been a big investment by our friends at HPP (Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains), our team-mates at HPP, to redesign the plan of the intake system of the engine, re-tune the engine around that, and squeeze a lot more horsepower out of the power unit as a consequence.”

Limitations for the coming season prohibit manufacturers from introducing new iterations of their power units mid-season.

Previously there have been multiple opportunities throughout the campaign to add updates, and address deficiencies, but there is no such safety net this year.

The Alpine A521 sports a bulky airbox

“They’ve had to do that [engine development] in a very interesting regulatory environment where they only get one shot at it,” Allison said.

“In previous years they were allowed three goes; you have a phase one PU (power unit), phase two PU and a phase three, each brought at different parts of the season with the power unit getting stronger through the year.

“In this year’s rules they get one go and they have to make sure they can put all that goodness into the power unit right from the start of the year.”

Mercedes is not the only team with a new power unit, with Ferrari having introduced the 065/6 for the coming campaign.

That is in response to what was regarded last year as the weakest engine on the F1 grid.

Renault has also fast-tracked changes originally scheduled to be introduced across 2021 to have them on the power unit for the start of the season.

Alpine, the sole team to use the Renault engine, also sports a revised airbox for the coming season, primarily the result of a rework to the car’s cooling systems.

Formula 1 is approaching the end of the current engine regulation period, with a freeze to be introduced on development from 2022.

That comes in an attempt to prevent parallel development programmes as the sport looks towards its next set of power unit regulations in 2025.

The 2021 Formula 1 season gets underway on Friday with opening practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix beginning at 22:30 AEDT.

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