The Mercedes team had opted to retain the narrow sidepod design on its 2023 car, but Toto Wolff has revealed that the entire body and sidepods could be changed during the season ‘if better solutions are found’. The rhetoric from the Germany former Champions seems more and more as if things are not well as the team drip feeds hints that the W14 is as flawed as its predecessor.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said that his team could potentially change the narrow ‘zero-pod’ sidepod design on the W14 in the near future, but the Austrian also insisted that the poor performance of the W13 in 2022 was not fundamentally due to the design.
To everyone’s surprise, the Mercedes team unveiled its 2023 car a few days ago, which features a sidepod concept similar to the one introduced on last season’s defunct W13 in the second week of winter testing, with which the German manufacturer’s team only managed one win in Brazil at the end of the season.
Wolff admits changes for W14 already
Speaking about the decision to retain the ‘zero sidepod’ concept in the 2023 car, Toto Wolff explained that the concept was not necessarily responsible for the W13’s poor performance in 2022, although he did indicate that a change in design could come fairly quickly at the start of the season.
“It’s important to be bold in this sport. I’m proud of the solutions we implemented on the car last year, but that’s not fundamentally the reason we didn’t perform well,” Wolff said at the W14 launch at Silverstone this week.
“There are no sacred cows in this concept. It’s not that we don’t want to follow anyone’s idea. We’ve kept the narrow sidepod, but you could see developments coming with upgrades.”
“The sidepods will change – not soon – but we are looking at solutions. It’s not an essential and fundamental part of the performance. Last year we learned a hard lesson because we thought we would bring a package of upgrades for test number two [the second salvo of winter testing in Bahrain] that was worth 1.5 seconds.”
“Then you look at the difference with the first test and you think it’s not very relevant because it wasn’t the ‘real’ car [in Barcelona]. But the fact is that when we put it on the track, it didn’t work at all as expected.”
“This year we did the opposite. The car you saw is, for the most part, the one we will be using in the [Bahrain winter] tests [February 23-25] and driving.”
“It’s fundamentally important to understand the platform and the behaviour of the car, rather than keeping things in the background that can give one or two tenths in aero performance.”
F1 team ‘insider’ reveals suspension failure at Silverstone
TJ13 sources have revealed the team are hurriedly manufacturing metallic suspension arms after faults were found with the carbon bones they originally designed and fitted.
The fault is so significant a wrap fix often used when cracks appear in carbon bodywork is considered too big a risk.
Further, despite having passed the FIA crash test, the carbon tub was found to be flexing much more than the desirable amount the team intended.
This will make it more difficult to control the suspension set up and could induce further porpoising for the W14.
TJ13 is led to believe stiffening the tub is a relatively simple fix, though together with the metallic compound now being used for the suspension arms, both fixes will add significant weight to the car.
Fixing the suspension is a more complex problem for the engineers and designers at Brackley to solve. Further the replacement alloy for the original carbon suspension arms will respond differently from the intended flex profile and could exacerbate further the difficulties Mercedes experienced in 2022 with the tyres.