Formula 1
Formula 1
28 Mar
Event finished
R
Emilia Romagna GP
18 Apr
FP1 in
4 days
R
Portuguese GP
02 May
Race in
20 days
09 May
Next event in
23 days
23 May
Race in
41 days
R
Azerbaijan GP
06 Jun
Race in
55 days
13 Jun
Race in
62 days
27 Jun
Race in
76 days
04 Jul
Next event in
79 days
18 Jul
Race in
97 days
R
Hungarian GP
01 Aug
Race in
111 days
29 Aug
Race in
139 days
05 Sep
Race in
146 days
26 Sep
Race in
167 days
R
Singapore GP
03 Oct
Next event in
170 days
10 Oct
Race in
181 days
R
United States GP
24 Oct
Race in
195 days
31 Oct
Race in
202 days
R
Australian GP
21 Nov
Race in
223 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
12 Dec
Race in
244 days
Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Topic

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How Aston Martin has moved on from Mercedes clone controversy

One of last year’s biggest Formula 1 talking points was the similarities of Racing Point’s RP20 and the Mercedes W10. With another year under its belt, the Aston Martin rebrand and a green paint job, has anything really changed?

How Aston Martin has moved on from Mercedes clone controversy

Aston Martin’s AMR21 was one of the more impressive cars to be seen during the busy launch period, primarily due to the fact that the team didn’t really hold too much back.

The images shown at the time of the launch and those issued subsequently have done little to hide some of the delicate detailing that some rivals have attempted to conceal. That’s a pretty bold statement to make and in some ways goes to show how lofty the team’s ambitions are.

Having had sight of the world-beating Mercedes W11 for an entire season, has Aston Martin copied Mercedes’ homework again or truly injected its own DNA into the AMR21?

Read Also:

Racing RP20, Aston Martin Racing AMR21, Mercedes AMG F1 W12, front brake duct

Racing RP20, Aston Martin Racing AMR21, Mercedes AMG F1 W12, front brake duct

Photo by: Aston Martin Racing

At the front of the AMR21 we see one design aspect that was massively scrutinized during 2020 – the front brake ducts.

The images released by the team suggests that the brake duct design has been carried over from 2020, with the inverted L-shaped inlet still collecting the oncoming airflow to help cool the brakes and create an aerodynamic effect which aids the outwash created by the front wing.

At Mercedes, it has opted to deal with the turbulence created by the front tyre more aggressively in 2021. This is most likely to try to keep that turbulence away from the now narrower floors and has resulted in a bulkier inlet with the wider section now placed at the bottom.

Identity crisis

Aston Martin has made a design U-turn in 2021, opting to return to the periscope-style sidepod inlet arrangement and lower-mounted side-impact protection spars (SIPS) that were a feature of the 2019 challenger.

This arrangement has arrived at the expense of two development tokens but will undoubtedly unlock more aerodynamic performance, allowing the design team to pull the sidepod bodywork much tighter to the car’s internals, while also helping to mitigate some of the losses associated with the narrower floor.

The changes made to incorporate the lower SIPS on the AMR21’s chassis also appear to coincide with a pinched section creating a route along the side of the chassis to the sidepod inlet – which appears to be even narrower than the Mercedes W12, albeit they have very different shapes.

Aston Martin AMR21, Mercedes AMG F1 W12, side pods

Aston Martin AMR21, Mercedes AMG F1 W12, side pods

Photo by: Aston Martin Racing

As we can see above, the AMR21’s sidepods have a much more rounded shape than the W12 when viewed from the front, especially around the shoulder section, which means it also has a wider control vane protruding out of it (red arrow).

Whereas Mercedes has opted to connect the horizontal sidepod slat with the main horizontal sidepod deflector, Aston Martin has returned to the solution used in 2019 (blue arrow). That is more akin to what we see Red Bull use – the elements are detached from one another, with the end of the slat hooked over in order to shed a more specific vortex.

When it comes to the sidepods, engine cover and general rear end architecture of the four Mercedes-powered cars, it becomes more obvious just how much the AMR21 and W12 share in common – but how subtly different they are too.

The engine covers of 2021 Mercedes-powered cars

The engine covers of 2021 Mercedes-powered cars

Photo by: Aston Martin Racing

Mercedes and Aston Martin have clearly been very aggressive regarding how far they’re prepared to push the cooling limits  in order to get the aerodynamic trade-off, with bulges and blisters used to envelope the power unit and its ancillaries. The biggest of those blisters can be found in the central part of the engine cover, around where you’d expect the inlet plenum to be, which has also been rumoured to have been changed for 2021.

Williams and McLaren, the latter returning to the Mercedes family this year, have been slightly less adventurous. That’s not to say that their aerodynamic packages will be weaker as a consequence, but it does mean they have headroom to make improvements in this region.

Mercedes W05 detailing PU106 powerunit installation, turbo compressor arrowed inset

Mercedes W05 detailing PU106 powerunit installation, turbo compressor arrowed inset

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Interestingly, the Mercedes ‘works’ outfit is the only Merc-powered team to use a liquid-air charge-cooler system during the hybrid era, with the teams they supply all favouring air-to-air intercoolers. It’s still unclear at this stage whether this will remain the case for 2021, but with the AMR21 displaying similarly tight packaging to the W12 it could indicate it’s the first to make the switch.

Irrespective of whether the AMR21 features the layout or not, there are arguments for using both types of systems. Mercedes would appear to prefer the symmetrical layout for cooling, packaging and aerodynamic reasons, whereas with the intercooled option, the packaging, design and weight of the whole system is slightly lopsided.

The other major consideration is the length of the boost tract, with the charge-cooling system allowing a much shorter route from the turbocharger to the engine plenum, potentially improving power unit performance as a consequence.

Aston Martin AMR21 detail

Aston Martin AMR21 detail

Photo by: Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin has also been able to get a token-free upgrade to the gearbox and rear suspension arrangement that Mercedes was particularly proud of last season (below). This essentially flips the wishbone over, with the rear leg mounted as high and far back as is possible, while the trackrod is placed ahead of the driveshaft instead.

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 rear suspension

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 rear suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This improves the airway passage over the rear of the car, especially the diffuser ramp which since the introduction of the new rules in 2017 has become more of an encumbrance (below).

Diffuser rules

Diffuser rules

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Independent thinking

A new design cue on the rear wing endplate again shows Aston Martin stepping out of Mercedes’ shadow and delineating from its design framework. Not seen on the Mercedes before, or anywhere else in fact, the front corner of the endplate has seen its thickness reduced in order that another upwash strike may be installed in the recess.

Aston Martin AMR21 detail

Aston Martin AMR21 detail

Photo by: Aston Martin Racing

This will undoubtedly have an impact on the airflow in that region and inherently alter the makeup of the tip vortex that’s shed behind it. This development comes as a result of teams continuously looking for ways to recoup some of the losses associated with the banning of slots and louvres in the endplate that the FIA introduced in 2019 and led to an increase in drag.

Using a year-old design clearly gave Racing Point an edge when it came to gaining ground on the midfield but taking the design of a car from a previous year, even the one that won a championship, was always going to place you behind the leaders, such is the rate of progress over the course of the season.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin Racing

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin Racing

Photo by: Aston Martin Racing

The success of the strategy in catapulting Racing Point to the front of the midfield pack perhaps led to the conclusion that Aston Martin would take the same approach for 2021, resulting in a car that looked identical to last year’s Mercedes but with a touch of green paint.

However, with a year to learn and develop a concept that wasn’t technically its own, it is clear Aston Martin has broken that barrier – it’s essentially leapt forward a year, missing a generation in the gene pool and created a car that resembles the 2021 W12 more so than it does last year’s W11. 

It will be interesting to see how Aston Martin fares in the early stages of 2021, and where it will focus its development. Of course, weighing 2021’s ambitions with designing an all-new car for new regulations that will be introduced in 2022 will be a difficult balancing act for everyone.

shares
comments

Related video

Vettel: Fears only works teams can win F1 title are "old school"

Previous article

Vettel: Fears only works teams can win F1 title are "old school"

Next article

F1 testing 2021: Schedule and who's driving in the Bahrain test

F1 testing 2021: Schedule and who's driving in the Bahrain test
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Matt Somerfield
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Prime

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says Nigel Roebuck.

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Prime

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now? Prime

Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Prime

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021
When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m Prime

When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m

Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix lasted mere corners before he wiped himself out in a shunt, but his financial backing affords him a full season. Back in 1993 though, Marco Apicella was an F1 driver for just 800m before a first corner fracas ended his career. Here’s the story of his very short time at motorsport’s pinnacle.

Formula 1
Apr 4, 2021
How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his teammate's F1 career climb Prime

How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his teammate's F1 career climb

Kimi Raikkonen's emergence as a Formula 1 star in his rookie campaign remains one of the legendary storylines from 2001, but his exploits had an unwanted impact on his Sauber teammate's own prospects. Twenty years on from his first F1 podium at the Brazilian GP, here's how Nick Heidfeld's career was chilled by the Iceman.

Formula 1
Apr 3, 2021
The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes Prime

The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix despite, for a change, not having the quickest car. But any hopes of developing its W12 to surpass Red Bull's RB16B in terms of outright speed could not have come at a worse time.

Formula 1
Apr 2, 2021
How Verstappen's Bahrain mistake can only make him stronger Prime

How Verstappen's Bahrain mistake can only make him stronger

Max Verstappen lost out to Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Grand Prix by a tiny margin, slipping off the track just as victory was within his grasp. But the painful lesson from defeat can only help Verstappen come back even stronger

Formula 1
Mar 31, 2021