Spies Hecker, one of the three global refinish brands of Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, has been responsible for the paint on the high-impact, instantly-recognisable liveries on the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Silver Arrows race cars for three years, including the Championship-winning 2016 Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid car.
For the 2017 season, the livery of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ car is striking. EQ stands for “Electric Intelligence” and is derived from the Mercedes-Benz brand values of “Emotion and Intelligence”. The new model designation has been translated graphically into the livery of the new W08, with an electric blue visual representation of the airflow across the car running from the front wing to trailing edge of the side-pods. These sleek, thin green and blue lines give an instant impression of speed and movement, even when the car is standing still. The design conjures up the image of sparks flying over the speeding race car’s chassis, making it look almost electrified. The effect on track is imposing.
But with such an intricate livery and a chassis design to maximise the performance opportunities offered by radically different aerodynamic regulations, just how difficult has it been to achieve this stunning paint job.
Start at the beginning
The design process for the 2017 car began while the 2016 season was still in full swing. Designers from the factory in Brackley, England, and Daimler AG in Germany work on concepts that are submitted to senior-level management for consideration. The designers also work in close cooperation with Andrew Moody, Head of Paint and Graphics at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, who, with his team of 15 in Brackley, is ultimately responsible for re-creating the conceptual designs on the car.
“We give feedback from our perspective. So, not on how intricate or difficult the design may be to re-create once, but rather on how easily it can be reproduced accurately many hundreds or thousands of times, and under extraordinarily tight timeframes, during the season,” said Moody.
Once the final livery has been agreed, Moody receives computer-generated renders of the new car with the new livery. Based solely on those, he and his team re-create the design initially on a few panels; this year it was the side-pods and chassis sides. Images are taken of the painted panels and sent to the designers, and adjustments are made where necessary.
Green means go
Moody explained: “Once everyone is happy, we usually get a visit from the senior decision makers so they can see what the painted livery looks like in person. And when we have the green light, we then paint the previous season’s car in the new livery, just to get a feel for it.”
The 2017 Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ race car, launched at Silverstone in England on 23 February, has 13 colours, none of which are commercially available: five shades of green, three shades of blue, four shades of graphite silver, and the main colour, called Stirling Silver after Sir Stirling Moss who drove for Mercedes in 1955.
The Paint and Graphics team use a variety of Spies Hecker products on the race cars. They start with Priomat® Wash Primer 4075. Then they use either Permasolid® HS Vario Primer Surfacer 5340, a high solids primer surfacer, or Permasolid® HS Performance Surfacer 5320, a fast drying 2K HS sanding surfacer. Once the surfaces are prepped, they follow with Permahyd® Hi-TEC Base Coat 480.
Moody said: “We finish the components off with either Permasolid® HS Optimum Plus Clear Coat 8650, a hugely reliable clearcoat, or Permasolid® HS Speed Clear Coat 8800 for parts we need to get done and dried quickly.”
With such an intricate livery on the car, Moody and his team in Paint and Graphics face tough challenges during the season. “Even after extensive training to apply the new livery in advance of the season, it takes about 150 hours to paint a race car, with the nose and rear wing each taking about 12 hours,” said Moody.
Over the course of this season, they will paint literally thousands of panels and components, some weeks as many as 150. “The speed of application and reliability is essential, we don’t have time to accept anything less than perfect and Spies Hecker delivers that for us,” he said.
A fine line
The new livery’s complex lines, stripes and spark effects run across multiple components. This means that it is essential the design on every interchangeable component matches up with the adjacent panels perfectly in terms of placement, size, shape, colour and shading. And this is no easy task for the painters in the spray booth.
Moody explained: “We work with specially built “jigs”, which are essentially dummy parts that allow us to reproduce each individual component accurately in terms of its size and shape, and most vitally, also the colours, lines, shading and design. So where you have three panels coming together and multiple lines crossing those, in different colours and shading, it is quite complicated and delicate to spray those panels and to get it right, and this is where Permahyd Hi-TEC really helps us because it is exceptional at multi-toning and designed paintwork. It allows us to mask directly after flash-off. This year we have introduced digital masks to help us with the reproducibility of the lines.”
Joachim Hinz, Spies Hecker Brand Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “This year’s livery is really very special and looks fantastic. We’re delighted the Spies Hecker Hi-TEC Performance System has once again proven itself to the team to be a robust, fast and efficient refinish paint material that delivers outstanding colour accuracy over and over again for the team. And it can stand up to the incredibly challenging and difficult environments of today’s international F1 circuits.”
Moody concluded: “We are always interested in seeing the new things Spies Hecker launches as we want to ensure we keep up with the latest products and modern techniques in the paint shop.”
For more information: www.spieshecker.com/F1speed