Mercedes, winners of the 2020 championship, are paying the price for last year’s success with their wind tunnel development time less than what their rivals are permitted.
This season Formula 1 has a new rule, one governing time spent in the wind tunnel.
In a bid to level the playing field, or at least try to, there is a new sliding scale that dictates the amount of time a team can spend in the wind tunnel and using CFD.
The better the previous year’s results, the less time.
As such Mercedes, the 2020 champions, have less time than Red Bull who in turn have less than McLaren, and so it goes with Williams, bottom of the log, given more time than any other team.
“We have, for many years now, been limited in the amount that we were allowed to use the wind tunnel and the CFD,” Mercedes technical director James Allison explained in a YouTube video.
“The limit in the past has always been the same for all competitors, whereas for 2021 that has changed and now we get a different allowance depending on how successful we were in the previous season.
“So, the way this regulation works is that basically the last-placed team in 2020 is allowed to use their wind tunnel about 20 per cent more than the first-placed team, and everyone in between is on a sliding scale between that 20 per cent and what the first-placed team gets.
“We were lucky enough to be good last year and, unfortunately, we pay the price for that a little bit in 2021 and beyond because we get to use less of that fundamental asset, the wind tunnel and the CFD computers compared to our competitors.”
Allison revealed that Mercedes are trying to find ways to make up for the lost wind tunnel and CFD time.
He added: “For us the challenge has been, how do we react to this new regulation in the most positive way? How can we make sure that we don’t get tripped up by it?
“There the challenge has been, if we are not allowed to use as much of our wind tunnel and our CFD as we were previously, how could we adapt our world so that we get more and more out of every single opportunity in that wind tunnel?
“If we’ve only got one run in the wind tunnel, let’s make that run as valuable to us as possible. If we are only allowed to do a small amount of CFD calculation, let’s make it so that the methodology and approach to those CFD calculations are as valuable as possible.
“We’ve tried to adapt our approach to this, so we mitigate and maybe even completely offset the effect of this reduction in the amount that we are allowed to use these fundamental tools.”
Mercedes’ 2020 triumph was the team’s seventh successive victory in the Constructors’ Championship while Lewis Hamilton also wrapped up the team’s seventh Drivers’ title. It was the first time in history that a team won seven consecutive doubles.