Mercedes W15 front wing innovation catches attention of rivals

Jaden Diaz

Mercedes was among the most anticipated car launches in pre-season. After two disappointing years (in relative terms, finishing P3 and P2 in 2022 and 2023), the German outfit plots its return to the front.

However, expectations remain low, at least for the start of the season.

“We hope to still be in the chasing group. Clearly, it would be even better if we are ahead of Ferrari, Mclaren and Aston Martin and closer to Red Bull.”

These were Toto Wolff’s pragmatic words during the W15 launch.

Mercedes W15 front wing: legal, aggressive, but not revolutionary

The W15 is a car in complete technical break with those of the previous two years. There is little or no continuity from the W13-W14 chassis.

Mercedes no longer has a forward driving position, a now infamous consequence of the zeropods concept. This year’s cooling configuration is also very different.

The transmission has been totally revised. Moreover, a new rear push-rod scheme has been introduced with an almost horizontal strut.

As with every car in 2024, significant performance is generated from what lies underneath the car.

Regarding the team’s large-scale upgrades, James Allison explained the limitations imposed by the budget cap.

Such changes “are hypothetically modifiable even during the year – but have such an enormous cost/opportunity that you never take that type of work into consideration,” he explained.

“You have to make these decisions in the summer of the previous year. Then you check with the tools in the factory whether the path you are taking is the right one,” concluded the British engineer.

Mercedes also generated plenty of conversation with the more visible changes to the W15.

This is especially true for their new front wing, which features a very aggressive design. It has a shortened fourth element and a very thin inner part – for the sake of legality.

In fact, the rearmost point of each section must be visible when viewed from below. However, it cannot be visible from above.

Mercedes has consequently applied a small strip on the inside of the fourth flap. This serves to cover the trailing edge of the third element when viewed from above.

Mercedes W15 front wing: Rivals ‘worried’ about its possible bending at high speeds 

The one seen on the W15 should not be considered an absolute novelty. Still, it is certainly a very aggressive interpretation of a design that was also seen on other cars last season.

Alpine’s A523 and its ‘broken’ front wings shared some similarities

There is an intention, with the design seen on the W15, to recreate the Y250 vortex that was present in the older generation of cars.

However, reproducing it completely is almost impossible. The technical regulations imposed by 2022 are the reason for this.

Regardless, it remains a good tool, although not essential, for better management of the turbulence generated by the rolling of the front tyres.

While Ferrari went all-area with the outermost diverter at the beginning of the Venturi, Mercedes maintained a very vertical solution. Most other teams have a more outward shape.

It also has a smaller surface area while moving to a full-downwash concept,

Having perfect control of the latter guarantees a much cleaner flow at the entrance of the Venturi channels. This allows for improved efficiency of the floor.

Rivals pay attention to W15 front-wing

Insiders from two teams have confirmed there appears little reason for the W15 front wing to be deemed illegal. Mercedes has even confirmed that it received the green light from the FIA.

However, the solution could be considered ‘against the spirit of the regulations’. These regulations were primarily designed to prevent cars from generating harmful turbulence air.

The FIA has banned ‘grey areas’ that teams have exploited in previous seasons.

Despite this, what leaves the technicians most perplexed is the chance that the last element flexes in a very accentuated way – since it is not structurally anchored to the nose.

This would lead to a certain reduction in drag for Mercedes. James Allison set this as a key objective for the W15.

Allison actually stated during the W15 presentation that he “worked hard to create a car with less resistance to progress.”

Is the new front wing a part of this work? We will see it when pre-season testing begins.

What is certain is that starting from the tests in Bahrain, rival teams will carefully monitor the W15’s flexing at the front wing.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni