CAR OF THE YEAR
The fight for the 2018 world championship was as much about the development war between Ferrari and Mercedes as the personal duel between drivers Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on track.
Ferrari started the season strongly while Mercedes were still getting to grips with the W09’s tendency to overwork its rear tyres. By mid-season, the Ferrari SF71H was also leading in straightline speed; the long-held dominance of the Mercedes engine was now in doubt as Ferrari unleashed more horses. By the time of the Belgian Grand Prix, it looked as if Mercedes had been left behind.
But that was to underestimate the engineers at both chassis HQ in Brackley and the developers at Brixworth’s High Performance Powertrains. The W09 came back as Ferrari faltered after the summer break. New rear wheel rims, designed to improve airflow around the tyres and manage heat transfer, were an example of Mercedes’ continuing development push. The wheel rims were significant enough that Ferrari held discussions with the FIA, and Mercedes chose not to run them in Austin and Mexico, meaning their race performance was less emphatic.
There were small weaknesses on the titlewinning car, as demonstrated by hydraulic leaks brought on by hitting kerbs in Austria and Germany. But since Mercedes had been pushed harder than they have been in any of the previous four campaigns, such cracks were inevitable. If the W09 wasn’t the quickest car at the start of 2018, it certainly was by season’s end.
“Compared with previous cars, the W09 didn’t have as much of a margin over the opposition. Developmentwise we have been pushed by Ferrari from start to finish, so it’s been one of our cars that has developed most over the course of the season. Overall it’s been a challenging season, so it’s even more satisfying to win the championship and awards like this one.” Andrew Shovlin, trackside engineering director (far right of picture)