MONTMELO, Spain -- Mercedes technical director James Allison says his team has found 0.25s in lap time from the work around its new car's sidepods alone.
Mercedes is aiming for a fifth consecutive world championship this year and has set the quickest lap time in pre-season testing so far. The new W09 is a clear evolution of last year's championship-winning W08, but has a number of clear changes, including slimmed bodywork towards the rear of the car.
All teams aim to package the cooling systems within the sidepods as tightly as possible to ease the airflow to the rear of the car and Allison said Mercdes had worked hard over the winter to make gains in that area.
"We've done an awful lot of work down there to try and make the car really, really slender. If you compared it to [the W08] you can just see the difference," he said in a YouTube video. "You can see that the bodywork bulges out around about where the engine and exhaust pack is [on the W08]. On the new car this is a much, much more slender thing.
"It doesn't look like much of a difference, but actually when you add it all up that is something like a quarter of a second just there. It doesn't look like much of a difference but it was actually a huge amount of work -- a lot of hair got lost in that project -- but the end result is something which is pretty to look at, but much, much more importantly is an awful lot quicker."
The other area Allison highlighted was the W09's raised front suspension. Along with Toro Rosso, Mercedes was one of the teams that pioneered the approach last year, creating a special bracket to mount the end of the wishbones with the front uprights. Allison said the design is even more extreme this year.
"The sharp-eyed ones among you have probably noticed the front suspension looks quite a lot different to last year's. The wishbones have been raised, that's something that has been a trend on Formula One cars in the last few years.
"Raising those front wishbones brings better aerodynamic performance. It's a big structural challenge but it's definitely something that brings you more downforce and a quicker car."