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Images from the 2019 F1 Spanish Grand Prix

Silver Arrows: Winning at the limit

May 132019

Formula One is all about marginal gains, and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Team go to extreme lengths to ensure their car is the quickest. When pole positions are determined by a mere hundredths of a second it is important that you are operating at your very best.

After Lewis Hamilton's victory in last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, and Valtteri Bottas's second-place for the Silver Arrows, the team have notched up a record five-consecutive one-two finishes this season. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication from the staff at their HQs in Brackley and Brixworth; plus an extraordinary level of detail.

Lewis said: "There is a broad area to focus on, but I think there will be small nuances and small percentages that will make a difference. There are lots of small little areas, one of them is from the driving side another is from the strategy side and with the car, I think we have done well with it trying to extract the best out of it each weekend."

Chief designer, John Owen, explains how no area is ignored, when it comes to making improvements, no matter how small they might seem. Recent changes have seen the team save around 10gs of weight on seamless fireproofs, while lighter shoes with shorter laces save 50g on each shoe.

"Driver kit was an area we attacked a few years ago," said Owen. "The length of the laces in shoes, the amount of Velcro in the racesuit, the thickness of the material. Then there are the gloves. It started with Nico Rosberg in 2016 and we now have the seams on the outside of the gloves.

"That was for comfort and weight-saving. Putting seams where they were not rubbing up against the driver and making it more comfortable. Also, when feeling the clutch at the start is critical, having a big seam from one glove to another is a big inconsistency."


Other meticulous details include new, lighter disposable racesuits from suppler' Puma weighing

just 650grams, despite being fireproof. Leaving parts of the car unpainted, such as rear wing endplates in black carbon fibre, saving between 25g-30g per endplate and removing a drivers' drinks bottle where it's not critical, saving up to 2kgs.


While Nico came up with the idea to improve driving gloves, Lewis too has come up with his own unique ideas on how to make improvements -- although they are being kept top secret by the team.


"I can think of one idea which Lewis has come up with," said Owen, "but I don't want to talk about it because it is confidential on the car. It is his idea about the car and what would be better for him, so there is a bit of working going on with the drivers. Another thing is him not always using a waterbottle. The amount of debriefs we have sat in and we have gone over the car to check everything is working and we'd say to Lewis if the drinks button was working and he'd say 'I don't know, I didn't try it'. He doesn't need that.” Lewis's attention to detail goes even further with the world champion picking different earplugs depending on which track he races at.


He added: "I have a lot of different ear moulds. In the past I had one big one, which used to hurt my ear at the end of the race, but now I have a smaller mould and different weights depending on the race and how much noise turbulence you have.”

Owen added: "With pitstop and equipment, if you make a change and you test it 10 times or 100 times, you can feel pretty pleased with yourself. But it needs to be perfect, a one in 10,000 failure-rate and no more, so we are very conscious of rushing into making changes with our pitstops.”