Formula 1’s world champion team Mercedes has revealed its 2021 challenger, the W12, in an updated version of its black anti-racism livery introduced last year.
Mercedes swept to an unprecedented seventh constructors’ championship in a row in 2020 with Lewis Hamilton’s seventh drivers’ title matching Michael Schumacher’s record and giving Mercedes a seventh consecutive championship double.
The W11 was a significant step clear of the opposition from the beginning of the delayed season in July, boosted by an adventurous rear suspension set-up.
Its successor, the W12, is an evolution of that design courtesy of the rules that force teams to carry over most of their mechanical car components this year for cost-saving reasons.
The new W12 also retains the striking black livery Mercedes adopted last year, though its 2021 design fades to the team’s traditional silver at the rear, no longer has the small star detailing that featured previously, and has been launched with extra AMG branding on the bodywork, the side of the cockpit and a logo on the mainplane of the front wing.
The tribute red star in honour of the late Niki Lauda has a new position near the cockpit.
Team principal Toto Wolff stressed the importance of the message behind the black livery, but added that the silver is “sneaking back in” because “that’s our heritage”.
It is unclear if the extensive engine cover AMG branding is just running for the shakedown or is a permanent addition to recognise the “intensification” of the performance brand’s link to the F1 team as part of Daimler’s electrification policy.
New co-owner INEOS, now an equal-thirds part of the management of the team alongside Daimler and Wolff, continues to be represented prominently on the airbox/top of the engine cover, and on the rear wing.
More importantly for the hopes of Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes’ W12 has had a longer development period than its rivals.
Though the fundamental car architecture remains almost identical, with the exception of the item(s) each team chose to use its development tokens on, aerodynamic work remained completely free in the off-season.
F1 has introduced four significant aerodynamic rule changes towards and at the back of the car designed to reduce rear downforce, which has the potential to shift the competitive order if a team has handled this adaptation better or worse than others.
Mercedes had such an advantage last year that it stopped developing the W11 early and it did not have new parts on the car after the Belgian Grand Prix, which was only the seventh round of the season.
Its development focus for the rest of 2020 was spent on preparing for 2021.
On the engine side, Mercedes reasserted itself as the leading force last year with a performance step so big it left main rival Red Bull’s engine partner Honda surprised.
Mercedes High Performance Powertrains has sought further progress over the winter ahead of the introduction of a new specification that will not be allowed to be upgraded after its debut.
HPP boss Hywel Thomas says there have been some issues to overcome but was confident these would be fixed for the season opener. Mercedes found itself in a similar position last year.
“Every year we reset our focus and define the right objectives,” said Wolff.
“That may sound simple but it’s damn hard and is probably why there are no sports teams out there with seven consecutive titles.
“So many things can happen and it’s very natural to get used to success, and therefore not fight as hard for it.
“But this team has not shown any of that. I see the same fire, hunger and passion now as I did the first time I walked through the doors in 2013.
“Every season presents a new challenge and therefore, a new goal for us to achieve.
“2021 brings changes to the regulations, which could impact our competitiveness, plus the cost cap and working on the major rule changes of 2022. These challenges excite us.”