Aston Martin’s 2021 Formula 1 car will utilise Mercedes’ 2020 rear end including its “adventurous” rear suspension, which has been one of two main areas of focus on the AMR21.
As part of a raft of cost-saving initiatives amid the coronavirus pandemic, teams agreed to carry over most of their car architecture from 2020 but were given two development tokens to upgrade one or two items for 2021.
Major components like the survival cell or inboard rear suspension would cost two tokens and would therefore be the only changes a team could make, or they could double up on smaller items that only cost one token.
However, within those rules was a special provision for customer teams that purchased year-old components from others. Teams that were using 2019-spec parts in 2020 were allowed to upgrade to the 2020-spec version for 2021 without spending any tokens.
Aston switched its car philosophy to a Mercedes-inspired design last year, when the team was still running as Racing Point. But it was still using the 2019 rear suspension and gearbox so was widely expected to take advantage of that free upgrade for 2021.
Mercedes repositioned significant components on the rear suspension, moving the angled leg of the wishbone into a less aerodynamically sensitive position by placing it behind two components that are 90 degrees to the direction of travel – a change it described as “adventurous” last year.
Technical director Andrew Green has confirmed that Aston has adopted the 2020 Mercedes rear end – saving its two development tokens on an undisclosed survival cell change – and he said the new suspension and the aerodynamic work to adapt to 2021 rule changes were the team’s two priorities with its development.
“I don’t want to go into specifics,” he said. “But the main drive in performance is aerodynamics, so there’s obviously a big push on the aerodynamic side.
“The regulation change that came through late last year had a big effect on the aero performance and we spent the winter trying to try to recover the losses from the changes in the regulations. That’s been a big focus.
“We’ve changed the rear of the car now to the 2020 suspension as supplied by Mercedes, That was always the plan.
“So, those are the two main areas that we’ve been focused on over the winter.”
The aerodynamic rule changes for 2021 are small but significant, aimed at stripping the cars of some of their rear downforce.
Green said that Aston’s “biggest concern” in adopting the Mercedes rear suspension was that its performance characteristics would clash with the loss in downforce.
“2022 is eating a significant amount of development resource we would normally put into the current season car” :: Andrew Green
“We had already committed to the 2020 suspension and gearbox before the regulations changed,” he said.
“So there was a concern that potentially it was going in the wrong direction.
“But it soon became apparent that as a minimum it complemented them, and so it really turned out to be a non-issue.
“What was harder was the late change to the aerodynamic regulations. That was the one that required us to react faster.
“That was the biggest aspect of what we were looking at over the winter, the changes that the FIA have made rather than the planned changes that we already had in place.”
Adjusting to the Mercedes rear suspension has been a long process for Aston, though the original plan for major new technical rules in 2021 meant it would not have originally expected to use this exact 2020 design.
Green said Aston had “visibility of the geometry of the changes” sufficiently in advance that could work on that adaptation “relatively early”.
He was coy on the perceived advantage to be gained from the change, only stating that it will “will be shown hopefully when we start running”.
But he also expects Aston to make a further step with its second year using a Mercedes-derived aero concept.
Aston has gained an unexpected extra year using that thanks to the delay on the new rules to 2022, which Green said posed the biggest headache going into the new season.
“The initial direction which was set almost two years ago now seems a long way behind us,” said Green. “And we’ve learned an incredible amount since then.
“It was a challenge for the group, and I think along the way we’ve done a lot of really good work.
“But last year we also made a few mistakes as well. And we definitely learned from those mistakes.
“And we’ve looked to correct them for the 21 car, which gives us a lot of optimism for the performance of the car going forward.
“So all in all, I’m happy with the decision we made two years ago. And we’re still building on it.
“The biggest challenge that we see is the 2022 car, which is on the horizon, which is such a step change in concept from anything we’ve done before.
“It is eating a significant amount of development resource we would normally put into the current season car.
“There is a lot of performance left in the ’21 car. Our biggest challenge is to try and extract it in the time that we have available, which is quite limited.”