In 2016, the Mercedes W07 was the best car on the grid by a long shot. Their engine was massively advantageous when it wasn’t blowing up, but their suspension system was also impressive, separating them from the entire grid barring Red Bull.
Last season, the top two teams were running a suspension system that propelled them into the distance. It wasn’t a better aerodynamic package, or purely a more powerful engine, but the secret does hide in the car’s chassis.
The system that Mercedes use isn’t a FRIC suspension system, but uses that knowledge to effect in a clever loophole. Ferrari have flagged the system to the FIA and Charlie Whiting, but a recent technical meeting saw too few members turn up to veto the system that Ferrari are against. This has led to speculation that there will be a protest at the Australian Grand Prix, but toys surely can’t be thrown that far from the pram this early on.
The right and left suspension on the Mercedes W07 are reactive to one another thanks to a hydraulic roll system, that uses a hydraulic computer measuring forces on the four corners of the car to autocorrect the rolling behaviour. It means that in fast corners, the Mercedes roll stiffness is hard, but in slow corners, it is soft. This gives a clear advantage in that it eliminates the need to choose.
This effect gives a more consistent downforce, meaning stability in the corners that ultimately leads to having drivers who can feel extremely confident in the cockpit. This factor alone can’t be emphasised enough.
All cars on the grid had this system on the rear of the car in 2016, but Mercedes and Red Bull both figured out how to make it work on the front-end. Ferrari will without doubt contest this system again. It’s expensive, smaller teams would struggle to find the funds to develop it, but it’s also a real piece of engineering innovation.
The Stunning W08:
The system that Mercedes have mastered and Red Bull have developed may be even more advantageous next season with the greater forces anticipated in cornering. This surely increases the spectrum in which advantages can be found. If the front-end has a self-stabilising element in a much faster, forceful environment it might be a four-horse race for the title in 2017.