In Formula One not all is at it seems. Take the annual launch of the new F1 cars where many are significantly different to the real car that takes to the circuit for testing a few weeks later. Of course the teams don’t want to give their competitors any more time to analyse their ideas than they can possibly help so the launch car is often a dummy.
Even before the launch of their W14 Mercedes appear to be toying with their rivals and the fans over the exact nature of their 2023 F1 challenger.
Wolff suggests evolution not revolution
In a video released over the festive season by Mercedes, Toto Wolff along with Mike Elliot review the 2022 season and discuss how they may move forward with the new car design. The conclusion is apparently that the approach will be evolution not revolution.
However Toto Wolff also sings a different tune. The Mercedes team boss talks of a new car “full of surprises” and the team are known for pulling a number of rabbits out of the hat as they did with the “zero sidepod” design for the W13.
Given the difficulties suffered by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in 2022 the new Mercedes challenger needs to be substantially different from its predecessor if it is to be competitive.
“It’s full of surprises,” said Wolff “The last time I saw it I thought ‘oh this looks the same [as the W13]’ but here’s hoping it’s not the same.”
Mercedes retain zero sidepod look
Due to the relative small car design regulation changes from 2022 to 2023, the expectation would be that the new F1 cars would not look too dissimilar to those that ran during the 2022 season.
The fact Wolff suggests the new Mercedes car looks the same would suggest the “zero sidepod” design has been retained however with the new ground effect cars much of the aerodynamic work goes unseen under the floor.
“I’m pretty much like you, I go into the wind tunnel and it looks like this year’s car but they say to me it’s very different underneath.
“It’s about the airflow, it’s about the weight distribution, it’s about the aero map.
Big changes are under the floor
“Our car fundamentally changed mid-year. We changed the concept but we couldn’t see anything on the bodywork.”
Given the Austrian’s at times difficulty in expressing light and shade in English, it’s to clear whether Wolff is referring to the W13 mid season change or the plans for the W14.
It would be a concern for Mercedes if the “mid-season change” did relate to the 2022 car because despite a track specific win in Brazil, the car was no closer on one lap pace to the Red Bull than back in Bahrain.
Wolff claims team understand the problems
Wolff continues, “I think we have a much better understanding of what the problems were.”
“We’ve been peeling only a layer of the onion, layers of discovering more issues and more problems, but I think we’ve come to the point that we understand pretty well why the car is not performing.
“The correlation at least is there for some tracks so it’s all in the fine detail of how can we make the car work out aerodynamically, how can we improve the ride and make it more fun?
“I think if we’re able to solve that over the winter, at least we can provide a stable platform to the drivers and we can develop it from there.”
Even if the crew at Brackley get on top of the W14 chassis there is another unknown awaiting as TJ13 reports on the power unit.
A maiden Monaco victory for Checo in 2022! 🤩
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 30, 2022