After almost a year of development, the W03 was revealed during pre-season tests at the Catalunya Circuit.
Mercedes-Benz has just revealed their new F1 car, however, it doesn't look as advanced and sophisticated as many of the teams were suspecting. Called W03, the car took part in the first day of the F1 pre-season test week that started on Monday at the Catalunya circuit in Spain. As with most of the other new cars, with the exception of McLaren's, the W03 features a stepped nose which is a result of the new technical regulations that stipulated a maximum bodywork height at the front of the car.
Those restrictions compelled the designers to raise part of the chassis in front of the driver, but in order to keep the front wing as low as is allowed above the ground, a two-plane nose cone was created. Significant rule changes were imposed also on positioning of the exhaust pipes. The new design should prevent the aerodynamic benefit gained from exhaust gases, through what was known as a 'blown diffuser'. Mercedes began designing its 2012 challenger back in May last year; very early in the season for a new car to take shape.
That is a testament to the fact that as early as May, the team didn't harbor anymore hopes for good results in 2011 season. It is also reminiscence to the Honda F1 project. In 2008, the Honda F1 team decided early in the season to concentrate its efforts on development of its 2009 car. However by the end of 2008, when the recession struck and car sales plummeted, Honda, in a shock decision, withdrew from F1. However contracts were already in place and Honda had to finance the team to the extent of tens of millions of dollars for next year though the team was sold out to Ross Brawn, Honda team principal at the time, for 1 pound.
Its name was changed to Brawn GP and its engine went to Mercedes-Benz. The following year the Brawn GP team, in its one and only F1 season, won both championships, for drivers' title with Jenson Button and the manufacturers' title. The car that was developed for almost a year with Honda's generous financing incorporated a double decker diffuser that improved cornering speeds dramatically. It was a controversial arrangement that led to F1 infighting, but nonetheless when the dust settled down, Button achieved 6 wins out of the first 7 races of the season and decided the championship.
By the end of that season Brawn sold the team to Daimler for more the $50 million and made a nice profit on his initial investment and even kept his job as team principal. But since then, with driver line up of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, the Mercedes team had little to show for. In its first two seasons it didn't challenge the common order and had to settle for a distant fourth place in the championship, behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. Neither Rosberg nor Schumacher achieved a win and even podium finishes were few and far between.
So what for the forthcoming season? Mercedes refreshed its engineering department by recruiting new staff and hopes that its aging driver lineup will be able to bring home better results and more points with the W03.