Comparison: Mercedes W196 vs. AMG W05 - 2015 30 Photos Zoom

Mercedes W196 vs. AMG W05: Technical comparison of World Championship-winning cars

There are 60 years between the Mercedes W196 and the AMGW05. For auto motor and sport the two World Championship-winning cars were not only required to turn up for a photo shoot, but also for a technical comparison.

Five days after the championship victory in Abu Dhabi. A cold November day in Stuttgart. On day before the Stars & Cars World championship party at the Mercedes headquarters in Untertürkheim. Two of the main characters were already there. The Mercedes W196 from the 1950s and its successor, the current World Championship-winning vehicle, the AMGW05. At around 9 o'clock in the morning, they stood together for the first time in from of the Mercedes Museum.

The old Champion W196 hadn't had far to come. It simply had to be rolled out from its usual spot in the Museum to just in front of the entrance to the building. Under protest from the guardians of tradition. With the urgent note that this car had reached the impressive price of 31.6 million dollars at an auction run by Bonhams in 2013 and should actually only be photographed behind closed doors.

The best Formula 1 car of the 2014 season came from afar. It had made the journey from its place of birth in the English town of Brackley and stood on the presentation stage, ready for the Stars & Cars event the following day. But before this, it had a photo shoot motor and sport photographer Wolfgang Wilhelm had asked the two HP icons to meet in front of the museum.

Mercedes W196 and Mercedes AMG W05 write history

There they now stood, two utterly different racing cars, that have a common history. They were both World Champions. One in 1954 and 1955. The other in 2014. You don't have to be a fortune teller to prophesy that the successor to the AMGW05 will also win the World Championship title in 2015. Thereby building another bridge back to the 1950s. And the two silver arrows have something else in common. Both won the title with the Audi slogan: Vorsprung durch Technik.

The Mercedes W196 was the best that motor sports technology had to offer in 1954. By the standards at the time, it was an S-Class for the race track. The engineers under the leadership of Fritz Nallinger and Rudolf Uhlenhaut put everything that was good and expensive into the one-seater car.

A steel trellis frame with light metal bodywork, single-wheel suspension to the front and a floating axle to the rear, with torsion bras and interior drum brakes. The chassis was designed in such a way that the wheel camber to the rear automatically adjusted to the tank content. At the start of the races, which at the time were up to 500 kilometres long, there were always 240 litres of fuel sloshing around inside the vehicle.

Mercedes afforded itself the luxury of offering the W196 in two versions. Infeasible for the competition in the form of Ferrari and Maserati. The W196 was available in a Monoposto version with exposed wheels and in a streamlined version. It made its début with covered wheels in Reims in 1954. Only the third time it was used on the Nürburgring did the GP version with exposed wheels turn up. During the previous race in Silverstone, the drivers had warned that with the closed bodywork they did not have a clear view of the apex of the curve. The field of vision was restricted.

In order to keep the front surface area of the car to a minimum, the in-line eight-cylinder engine was tilted 20 degrees to the side. Depending on the race track, the wheelbase lengths varied between 2,150, 2,258 and 2,349 millimetres. Over the 16 months that the car was used, the dry weight was reduced from the 758 kilograms of the initial version, to 690 kilograms. The initial power of 271 and the subsequent 286 HP at 8,500 rpm was delivered via a five-speed transmission with limited-slip differential.

Engine power increases from 286 to 809 HP

The eight-cylinder in-line engine was the show-piece of the entire construction. Engine Manager Hans Gassmann and his colleagues didn't practice secrecy as is common today. With a bore/stroke ratio of 76.0 x 68.8 millimetres, the engine had a cylinder capacity of 2,496 cubic centimetres. Just under the maximum regulation limit of 2.5 litres.

The forced control of the 16 valves in order to increase the revs and the valve acceleration (Desmodromic) had indeed been invented 40 years previously, but Mercedes could add to this a mechanical direct petrol injection system with a pressure of 100 bar. The power is exerted at the centre of the crankshaft. This is referred to as central downthrust.

In 2014 an engine is no longer an engine. Those in the industry refer to a Power Unit. The 1.6-litre six-cylinder with a belt angle of 90 degrees, 24 pneumatically actuated valves, direct injection with a maximum injection pressure of 500 bar and a turbo charger with a maximum permitted speed of 125,000 rpm is only part of the engine, which answers to the complex name PU106A Hybrid.

Added to this are two electric engines. When braking and when the engine is in towing mode, the MGU-K stores kinetic energy in the lithium ion battery weighing around 25 kilograms, which has to be housed in the safety cell beneath the tank. The MGU-H uses the thermal expansion of the exhaust gas to recover energy. Here the charging pressure is kept as constant as possible within a window ranging from 3.0 to 3.5 bar. The engine speed varies between 10,000 rpm and 12,500 rpm. This produces the disappointing sound, which, in the partial load range, is reminiscent of a lawnmower.

With all power units running at full throttle, the PU106A-Hybrid produces around 809 HP. In 2015 this is set to increase by 40 to 50 HP. In contrast, the 286 HP from the old in-line eight-cylinder seem rather modest. Most of all because 40 litres of special mixture fuel per 100 kilometres had to course through the injection nozzles. Today, with a maximum of 45 litres, the consumption over 100 kilometres isn't much more. With two and a half times the power.

The new Mercedes AMG W05 is 80 centimetres longer than the W196

In the direct comparison with the current Formula 1 car, the silver arrow from back in the day looks like a toy car. Its total length is 80 centimetres shorter. It is also 17.5 centimetres narrower. But also nine centimetres taller. With a weight of 691 kilograms, the AMGW05 is roughly the same weight as the last version of the W196 at the end of the 1955 season. But with the driver on board. The 62 to 65 kilograms of Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg must therefore also be subtracted to produce a true comparison.

The tubular frame is long gone. Colin Chapman's idea of the monocoque replaced it in 1962. What's more, aluminium and magnesium are no longer used as materials for the outer shell. The chassis is now a carbon tubular frame with Kevlar and Cylon inlays. The wheels are hinged at the top and bottom, in each case by means of carbon fibre transverse control arms. In the AMGW05 these have an aerodynamically optimised wing profile design.

To the front, the suspension/damper unit is activated via pressure struts, and to the rear via tension struts. In addition to this there is, in each case, a third spring element that adjusts the ground clearance and a fourth that dampens reverberation of the vehicle body during spring extension and compression. This technology is referred to as an inertia damper.

You will have difficulty finding a wing on the W196. By way of compensation, there are two horizontal fins directly behind the front axle, to settle the air stirred up by the front wheels. In the modern cars, the wings are a work of art. The front wing of the AMGW05 is divided into seven horizontal and three vertical elements.

Every curve, every bulge and every deflector in conjunction with the wing directs the air to a predefined point. Either to generate as little or as much air vortex as possible. Depending on what the aerodynamics technicians were aiming for. Some turbulence is produced intentionally to divert harmful air vortex from the car.

Aerodynamics dictate the appearance of the AMG W05

In 2014, Mercedes not only had the best engine, but also the best car. One unique feature of the World Championship-winning car was its short nose. Granted, the structure only passed the crash test on its fourth attempt, but thanks to the fact that the front section of the car is just 85 centimetres long, the new high regulation of a maximum of 185 millimetres for the tip of the nose could be circumvented. This means that more air flowed under the car, which arrived at the diffuser in the form of additional surface pressure.

Otherwise, Mercedes managed everything just as well as the previous trendsetter, Red Bull. The rear was just as flat and just as slender as that of the competitor product. The cooling more efficient, the centre of gravity lower, and thanks to the drive unit being 18 kilograms lighter, the weight distribution was naturally closer to regulation. This meant that Mercedes could place more weight where it was actually wanted.

The exhaust of the old silver arrow escaped to the right of the driver, with two monstrous tailpipes. Today, according to regulations, the exhaust pipe must run along the centre of the vehicle, beneath the rear wing. 60 years ago the airbox did not yet exist. The engine received its air via an inlet on the front of the car. And yet to the rear of the W196 there was a hump running from the rear wall of the cockpit to the rounded backk section of the vehicle, flanked to the right and left by cooling outlets. Even back then they understood a thing or two about aerodynamics.

Tailor-made cockpit vs. club chair

In 1954 and 1955 the tyres were produced by Continental and were just under 18-centimetres wide. The Pirelli Slicks used now have a width of 32.5 centimetres. The cockpit of 2014 is made to measure. In contrast, the seat in the W196 looks like a club chair. Driver's sat in their cockpit with their legs apart. To the left of the transmission tunnel, the clutch,, and to the right of it the accelerator pedal and brakes.

Hamilton and Rosberg now only have two pedals. The clutch is activated by hand using the rocker behind the steering wheel. The fingers also operate the gear shifts via two levers, without the driver having to take his hands off the wheel. Juan-Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Karl Kling still had a fully fledged gearshift lever to their right, beside the seat. And the gear shift pattern was reversed, as was common back in the days of antiquity.

For this reason it was a good thing that the Mercedes M196 engine only delivered its power via five gears. Hamilton and Rosberg zoom through the eight gears of their quick-shift gearbox like its a computer game. Incidentally, the eighth gear was only used for the first time in Monza. Mercedes had too long a ratio. This was corrected after the Italian GP.

The steering wheel. In the founding years of Formula 1, it was a wagon wheel made of wood. Not a button in sight. Three instruments provided Fangio and co with the most important information regarding the rev count, oil pressure and oil temperature.

Today the drivers drive using a PC. On it there is a digital display that provide all kinds of message to the man in the cockpit on demand. On the front panel there are 21 switches, buttons and turn-screws. Engine, electric drive, clutch, transmission and braking force distribution can be reconfigured as necessary.

There are 60 years seem like 120 on account of the rapid development taking place. This is also evident in the lap times. Monte Carlo is the only race track on which the old silver arrow can be compared with the new. The 2014 course is 160 metres longer than in 1955 and has six additional corners. In spite of this, the pole position time by Nico Rosberg of 1:15.989 minutes was 25.2 seconds quicker than the time posted by Juan-Manuel Fangio, who took pole position in 1955 with a time of 1:41.1 minutes.





6 March 2015
5 4 3 2 1 0 5 0
  • All Sections
  • Car Reviews
  • Comparison Tests
  • Road Tests
  • News
  • Supertests
In cooperation with