2017 championship rivals, Mercedes and Ferrari have officially unveiled their 2018 F1 challengers for the upcoming Formula 1 season. Both teams have high expectations of battling once again for the title. Interestingly, both have chosen to expand on last year’s designs and maintain their strengths. At the same time, they will work on the weaknesses their cars showed.
Mercedes have opted to widen the operating window of their ‘diva’ of a car. On the other end of the scale, Ferrari are focusing on reliability. Ferrari’s title challenge fizzled out last year due to poor reliability and silly mistakes. Mercedes got a head-start in putting the car through its paces at a damp Silverstone on Thursday. Finland’s Valtteri Bottas had the honour of doing a few laps in the morning with Lewis Hamilton running in the afternoon.
Team boss Toto Wolff said that the team tried to keep the car’s strengths and iron out the weaknesses. Particularly on slower tracks with low-grip surfaces. He said, “We hope we have kept the good character traits of the diva. We all like divas. But sometimes she was a bit difficult to understand and this is the are where we worked the most, trying to understand and preserve the speed in the car and find more driveability. Because the regulations have stayed stable, there is not a lot of difference because the regs have stayed stable. Of what is visible, the most visible [change] is aerodynamic and how tight the packaging is of the car and how closed up the bodywork is.”
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton said: “I am hopeful we have ironed out a lot of the creases. There is a different aerodynamic characteristic this year, there were certain circuits we were not as strong so hopefully we have found a compromise that suits all circuits. But everything is brand new. All the suspension and everything has been re-done, it is brand new.” The 33-year-old is “excited” to start the new season and go for a fifth world title.
Meanwhile, in the Ferrari camp, technical director Mattia Binotto said that the team evolved its approach to aerodynamic surfaces. The Maranello team are also working on the car’s performance on high-speed tracks. They also took a page out of Mercedes’ book by lengthening its wheelbase. This helps in producing more overall aerodynamic downforce.
Binotto said, “It is an evolution of last year’s car which was already a good project. We tried to maintain the strengths, aggressiveness of some of the design, and working well on low-speed circuits. But we also had to work on aerodynamic development to make it strong on high-speed circuits but as well on reliability. We have a slightly longer wheelbase, we have side pods and radiator ducts even more aggressive than last year – [bodywork] packaging is very tight. The body is very narrow.”
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said that it was a big step from last year’s car. Both 2018 F1 challengers looked elegant and can be expected to be major contenders again this year. The Italian team will begin pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday along with the other teams. As is the norm this season, the ‘halo’ head protection system is present on all cars.