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Why Mercedes doesn’t change its big rear wing

The German manufacturer has seen Red Bull win the last four F1 races, and one of its rival’s key advantages is the higher top speed it enjoys on the straights.

What has allowed that dominance of Red Bull is opting for a rear wing design with lower downforce and low drag, in contrast to Mercedes, which prefers to wear a larger rear wing.

Speaking after the Styrian Grand Prix, the Red Bull team boss, Christian Horner, was clear about the role that different rear wing options played in the characteristics of both cars.

“They (Mercedes) had a rear wing that looked like a barn door on their car for this race and we had a pretty thin rear wing,” Horner analyzed. “So you don’t have to be a rocket engineer to figure out why we tend to be a little faster on the straights.”

But while Mercedes has lower drag wings available, the team is clear that going that route would actually end up slowing it down.

The team’s motorsports strategy director, James Vowles, said Mercedes has constantly looked at the best spoiler solution to use and believes its current levels of downforce are correct.

“Of course you could have less rear wing and go faster on the straight, but you would be sacrificing cornering performance and not only that,” he explained in the post-race video from the Red Bull Ring.

“That also has an effect on degradation. On the contrary, less rear wing allows you to overtake a little more, but there is a trade-off.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

“We use simulation tools to test all the rear wing settings that we have available and get to find out what we should be wearing on this track.”

“What we should use for overtaking, qualifying and racing, and in our case, the result is the rear wing setup that you see.”

Another theory on why Red Bull can run better with a lower drag rear wing is that its floor and diffuser produce more downforce than Mercedes, thanks to its high-rake single-seater concept.

That means trimming the rear wing doesn’t cost you as much downforce as Mercedes, which has a low rake design.

Vowles admitted that the differences in rake made it difficult to perfectly judge what impact the different rear wing configurations had on the car’s drag.

“The Red Bull wing is a little lower than ours, but they also have a much higher rear height, so it’s very difficult to compare the drag their car generates in relation to ours,” he explained.

“What we know is that with our car, and we have seen it, the rear wing that we have is optimal for the lap time and, in the end, that is what qualifying and the race are all about.”

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