Are the sero-pod days at Mercedes finally over?
Ever since the F1 team unveiled their challenger for the 2022 season, the W13 with its distinctive lack of sidepods, that design has faced its share of questions. Mercedes struggled with aerodynamics throughout the 2022 campaign, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell dealing with “porpoising” on the track.
That led to Team Principal Toto Wolff admitting after last season that the team “got the physics wrong.” While Mercedes rebounded from their difficult start to the 2022 campaign, their 2023 challenger, the W14, has helped the team to an up-and-down start this year.
Following the Miami Grand Prix, the team outlined that they were bringing a big set of upgrades to the next race. That was supposed to be the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but with that race canceled due to flooding in the region, the upgrades are coming to Monaco for the Monaco Grand Prix.
We finally have our first glimpse of the upgrades, thanks to F1 journalist Albert Fabrega:
Primera imagen de los muevos pontones de Mercedes.— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) May 24, 2023
First image of the new Mercedes sidepods. #f1 #MonacoGP pic.twitter.com/su38hzjeDN
As noted by many, the design looks similar to the shape of Red Bull’s RB19. That is probably not a bad idea to emulate, given how dominant Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez have been this season:
On Thursday Simon Lazenby of Sky Sports shared another look at the new design from Mercedes, straight from their trackside garage in Monaco:
Sidepods. pic.twitter.com/vqoWTTv8i7— Simon Lazenby (@simon_lazenbyF1) May 25, 2023
However, Wolff cautioned on Wednesday that there are no “silver bullets” in F1, and that the upgrades are just the first step in getting Hamilton and Russell a car that can challenge at the front.
“The revised calendar means that Monaco is now the starting point of the European leg of the season,” said Wolff. “It is a unique event but will still provide an opportunity to learn about the upgrades to W14 - but we also need to be careful not to draw too many conclusions from this one event. We are introducing the first step in a new development direction.”
Wolff is hoping the upgrades will give Hamilton and Russell a more stable, and predictable, W14.
“[The upgrades] won’t be a silver bullet; from my experience, they do not exist in our sport. We hope that it gives the drivers a more stable and predictable platform,” said the team boss. “Then we can build on that in the weeks and months ahead.”
“F1 is tough competition and a meritocracy,” he added. “We are not where we want to be but there’s no sense of entitlement. It’s just about hard work to get us to the front.”
Will the end of the zero-pod design bring the results Wolff and the team are looking for? We will find out the answer to that question, and so much more, starting this weekend.