Damon Hill fears Mercedes ‘might be cutting their nose off to spite their face’ with zero-pod design

Michelle Foster
Mercedes pit stop practice with Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain February 2023

Mercedes pit stop practice with Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain February 2023

Sticking with their zero-pod concept on the W14, Damon Hill fears in Mercedes’ determination not to copy rivals, they “might be cutting their nose off to spite their face”.

Despite concerns Formula 1’s new era of ground effect aerodynamic cars would see a bunch of very similar looking cars take to the grid, the 2022 season saw a raft of different ideas coming out of the new regulations.

One of the most eye-catching was Mercedes’ slimmed down sidepods, dubbed the ‘zero-pod’.

There was a great deal of speculation throughout the season that the zero-pods were exacerbating the team’s porpoising problems, but still they stuck with the concept.

They’ve done so again this year, the new W14 featuring zero-pods.

But while Mercedes seem to have resolved their bouncing issues of last season, the W14 was still off the pace in pre-season testing.

This has left Hill somewhat baffled as he feels the Red Bull sidepod philosophy, which is also on the Aston Martin, the car that impressed in testing, is the way to go.

Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, he said: “You remember, what happened with Aston Martin. Dan Fallows went from Red Bull to Aston Martin, and then halfway through last year they changed this sidepods and everyone was complaining that it was a copy of the Red Bull.

“Well the Aston Martin is going quite well, isn’t it and it’s gone down that sidepod kind of idea and Mercedes have said, I wonder whether there’s a little bit of pride involved where they go ‘well, they’ve gone that way, but we don’t want to copy them’.

“And if that’s the mindset, then I’m afraid they might be cutting their nose off to spite their face.”

PlanetF1 recommends

F1 2023 predictions: Title winners, team-mate battles, driver moves and much more
Ranked: How well did every team perform at F1 2023 pre-season testing in Bahrain?
Bahrain Grand Prix 2023: Schedule, stats, weather forecast, how to watch

Lewis Hamilton, speaking ahead of pre-season testing, made it clear that Mercedes will follow their own path and not copy any of their rivals.

He told the media, including PlanetF1.com: “I don’t think we’ve ever been a team that copied other people. We’ve always had our own mind and have always been a team that’s incredibly creative and innovative and likes to do it our way. And I think that’s worked in the past.”

But with the Brackley squad off the pace of the Red Bull while also trailing Ferrari and perhaps even Aston Martin, the question must be asked is it still working?

Hill believes pride should be pushed aside and Mercedes should do what is “fastest”, even if that means going down the same route as a rival team.

“As far as design concepts go you have to do what’s right, you have to do what’s fastest,” said the 1996 World Champion.

“I mean Toto [Wolff] will be sitting there and going ‘well guys you told me this is the right way. And we’re going to have one more crack at it. And we’ll see how things turn out there’.

“I can be accused of a lack of faith in the good guys at Mercedes. And I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

“Lewis said something about not wanting to copy, ‘we’re not going to copy everyone else or Red Bull’. It’s not about copying it’s…

“There comes a point where you have to say, ‘well this is the direction things are going and we have to either swallow our pride and say okay well that seems to be better, someone has come up with a better solution for this new total overhaul of Formula One regulations, and we might have just gone the wrong direction’.

“That’s going to be a tough one for them to have to swallow if they do decide to change but if it gets them results, everyone will forget all that.”