Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have officially unveiled the Mercedes W06 Hybrid in the Jerez pit lane on the morning of the first day of 2015 testing.
The new car is the one Mercedes hopes will successfully defend the drivers’ and constructors’ championships won in 2014. Glimpses of the car had been seen from a filming day in Silverstone earlier this week, but the Jerez launch came ahead of Rosberg’s day behind the wheel. He will alternate days with reigning world champion Hamilton for the remainder of the test.
The W06’s predecessor enjoyed record-breaking dominance last year, with Hamilton and Rosberg winning 16 of 19 races, and the team enters the 2015 as favourites to repeat their world championship success again.
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Mercedes has offered a glimpse its new car, the W06, during its track debut at a filming day at Silverstone.
The car is not set to be officially launched until the morning of the first day of testing on Sunday, but the team offered a series of teaser videos via its Twitter feed before publishing photos of the new car.
The W06 will be the car to beat this year after Mercedes dominated the championship in 2014. It hit the track at 13:13 and completed 18 laps before a blizzard cut the running short. Nico Rosberg went first but world champion Lewis Hamilton also got his first taste of the new car before the weather came in.
Both drivers will be back in action next week in Jerez, with Rosberg kicking off the test on Sunday and driving again on Tuesday while Hamilton will drive on Monday and Wednesday.
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Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe says the importance of aerodynamics under F1’s new engine regulations should not be underrated.
Mercedes’ V6 turbo power unit is often credited for the team’s success in 2014 and was more powerful and efficient than rivals Renault and Ferrari. However, Lowe was keen to stress that the team’s aerodynamic package, which featured some pioneering designs, was more important than it has been in recent years.
“A lot of the talk of the new formula has been about power units, but actually aerodynamics have become more crucial than ever,” he told the 2014-2015 Autocourse annual. “Incorporating the power unit in a car with the minimum aero impact is more important than before, not less.”
Among Mercedes’ aerodynamic innovations was a unique front suspension layout, which featured a compact and forked lower wishbone rather than the wide ‘V’ shape used elsewhere. Although difficult to design from a structural point of view, it helped improve the airflow around the front tyres and therefore improve front wing performance and aid airflow to the sidepods.
“The front suspension was a big part of the aero performance and that project was started in June/July of 2013,” Lowe added. “To make it work structurally was quite difficult. But we could see fairly early that it was feasible, so we went with that aero concept and let the structures guys loose on it.”
Lowe said another key factor was cooling, so as to package the new power unit with minimal drag.
“A good part of the story has been cooling efficiencies that were achieved. We did it bit by bit, pushing the efficiency of each part of the cooling circuit up, and that’s what brings the sizes down. Your first go at it is not nearly as good as your 27th go. Initially it had looked like the whole story of the car was going to be, ‘How are you going to get in enough heat-exchange areas to get the job done?’ By the time we arrived with a car that seemed little different to the year before in terms of radiator area etcetera, that felt pretty amazing as an achievement.”
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New year, new colours according to reports.
At least two top teams will enter the 2015 season with fundamentally different colour schemes, it has emerged.
Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo reports that new reigning champions Mercedes intend to switch from silver to a striking mirror-like chrome paint-job this year.
The report said the special chrome paint for the 2015 livery is called ‘Kromo’, and will also be supplied to wheel supplier OZ for the title-defending W06 raced by world champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
The same Spanish sports newspaper reports that with Mercedes stepping up its iconic silver look, Woking based McLaren is tipped for a complete livery U-turn in 2015.
McLaren turned silver in 1997, at the height of its works collaboration with Mercedes, but now the famous British team is kicking off its new era with Honda.
El Mundo Deportivo reported: “Honda does not want (McLaren) to continue with silver because it is a colour immediately associated with Mercedes and the ‘Silver Arrows’.
“There are rumours the (2015) car could be orange, McLaren’s traditional colour, for testing. But it could also be white, in a double-tribute: to Honda and also because McLaren’s first F1 car was that colour” in 1966.
“The final choice could depend largely on whether McLaren has a major sponsor in 2015 or not,” the report added.
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Fernando Alonso would be his main target if he cannot agree terms on a new contract with Lewis Hamilton for 2016.
Hamilton’s current contract is set to expire at the end of the year although both sides have expressed a desire to continue together in 2016. Negotiations were put on hold during 2014 in order to allow Hamilton to concentrate on the championship and Wolff says there is still no rush to sign a deal just yet in 2015.
“There’s no hurry, it will be discussed during the year,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
However, Hamilton is likely to want more from his new contract while Wolff has talked about doing what is best for Mercedes. Asked what would happen if an agreement could not be reached, Wolff admitted Alonso would be the first alternative.
“I am optimistic [of reaching a deal with Hamilton], the priority is to continue with these two drivers. But if it’s not possible, Alonso is the first alternative. Then there is [Valtteri] Bottas”.
Alonso has signed for McLaren for 2015 and Wolff is expecting the Spaniard to up the team’s competitiveness.
“He’s a dangerous threat in any car. If you have in your hands a car that will finish sixth, he will finish in third place.”
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Niki Lauda says his no-nonsense attitude has at times rubbed the Mercedes board up the wrong way, but that ultimately he is the best link between the team’s drivers and its management.
Lauda is non-executive chairman of the F1 team, and alongside executive directors Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe makes top-level decisions. As an ex-F1 driver and three-time champion, Lauda has close relationships with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and said he predicted their on-track collision before the Belgian Grand Prix this year.
However, he admits his forthright manner has at times upset the Mercedes board in Stuttgart, even if he is proved to be right.
“Sometimes management is p*ssed off with me because I tell them what’s going to happen,” he told FIA quarterly magazine Auto. “We had a board meeting in Stuttgart with all our bosses there and I said: ‘They will hit each other’. ‘How can you say this?’ they asked. ‘Because I know.’
“And the drivers know that I also defend them. I’m the only one who speaks the same language – being part of them and part of the management. So we have a very good relationship. They find it very hard to convince me of things I don’t think are right.”
Lauda said the collision at Spa-Francorchamps was the only time the management really needed to intervene with the drivers all year.
“We’ve only had one serious discussion about these things – only in Spa. There was nowhere else we had a problem, so really we’ve had peace between the two, no aggravation. In our meetings before the race they are relaxed, they know what they are doing.
“They know the responsibility for Mercedes – that we want to finish first and second. This is a team order. And then one or the other wins the race and the other one has to be second.”
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Lewis Hamilton plans to break from tradition next season and retain the number 44 on his Mercedes, rather than adopt number one for his title defence.
At the start of the 2014 season F1 drivers picked numbers to remain with them for the remainder of their careers, with Hamilton choosing the number 44 with which he won his first karting title. Sebastian Vettel picked number five at the start of the year but drove with number one on his Red Bull because he was the defending champion, with regulations stating he will switch to his career choice next season at Ferrari.
But newly-crowned 2014 world champion Hamilton, who has the number 44 tattooed behind his right ear, says his current choice means more to him.
“Forty-four has always been my number, ever since I started [racing],” Hamilton said. “I won my first championship on number 44. I’m going to work very hard to ask the team if I can keep 44 on my car next year. Number one is a great thing but I will always know I’m number one. Forty-four is my favourite number so I want to keep it on the car.”
Other motor racing championships, such as Moto GP and IndyCar, often have competitors sticking with their career number when defending a championship. Hamilton says he would not need a change of number on his car for other drivers to know he’s the defending champion.
“It doesn’t make any difference. I’ll still be 44 but underlying that the drivers will know I’m number one.”
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Nico Rosberg wrested back the psychological advantage at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with fastest time in final practice.
Rosberg beat Mercedes team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.369 seconds after losing out in both sessions on Friday.
Hamilton made mistakes in the final sector, where he had been strongest on Friday, on both his fastest laps.
Hamilton needs to finish second even if Rosberg wins to clinch his the title.
A lap Hamilton was on at the end of the session, which he did not complete because he was out of time, suggested that Hamilton could have matched Rosberg’s pace had he managed to put a good lap together.
But Rosberg will head into qualifying boosted by the knowledge that he was faster than Hamilton on both the super-soft tyres on which the grid positions will be decided and the soft tyres on which most of the race will be run.
Read more at BBC Sport