Reports from the German press claim that the Mercedes GP W02 sports the shortest Mercedes GPwheelbase of any car on the 2011 Formula 1 grid, prompting the Bild newspaper to dub the W02 challenger the “mini Mercedes”.

The W02’s wheelbase is some 5 centimetres shorter that Ferrari’s F150° Italia, nine shorter than the Red Bull RB7, and almost a foot – an incredible 28cm! – shorter than McLaren’s MP4-26.

The decision to opt for a shorter wheelbase design is the complete reverse of the team’s decision to lengthen the wheelbase of its predecessor, the W01, which earned a reputation as an understeering car.

A shorter wheelbase chassis generally offers better cornering speeds and a stronger ability to put heat in the tyres. Conversely, the packaging needs to be more refined to accommodate the car’s inner workings.

It is important to note, however, that the wheelbase should not be a solely determining factor in the potential of a Formula 1 car, although unkind hacks might want to joke that a shorter-wheelbase car could make it trickier for Michael Schumacher to ‘park’ his car at La Rascasse!

[Original image via Flickr]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.