Ferrari nose, Mercedes steering wheel and Red Bull sidepods all catch the eye in Bahrain

Michelle Foster
Red Bull RB19 detail as car is pushed down the pitlane. Bahrain February 2023

Red Bull RB19 detail as car is pushed down the pitlane. Bahrain February 2023

Evolutions but not revolutions, there were still a few bits and bobs on the new 2023 cars that caught the attention as they took to the track on Thursday for the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain.

But it turned out not all of it was intentional, especially when it came to the nose of the Ferrari SF-23.

Eagle-eyed fans watching the opening morning on F1TV noted the Ferrari’s nose dimpled as Carlos Sainz flew down the straights.

While two seasons ago there were flexi-wings and last year’s flexi-floors, one of the big questions early Thursday morning was does Formula 1 now have a flexi-nose controversy waiting to unfold. The answer is no.

This area of the nose on a Formula 1 car is not structural and is weak for impact energy absorbing, so it can deform due to air pressure. That of course is not what Ferrari actually want, the team confirming to Italian journalist Giuliano Duchessa that the bending was ‘not intentional’.

But while Ferrari’s nose buckling wasn’t intentional, Mercedes’ exposed wires apparently were.

Last season, as has been widely reported, Mercedes had a serious problem with porpoising as their W13 bounced from track to track. The team is hopeful they’ve resolved those issues with the new W14 but of course Thursday was the first day they’d genuinely have any idea as CFD and wind tunnel tests cannot mimic the phenomenon.

So Mercedes reportedly put some extra wiring in the car designed solely to test porpoising.

The wires are an accelerometer that measure vibrations from the steering wheel to give the team a better understanding of the level of porpoising the drivers may be experiencing.

According to Sky Sports’ Anthony Davidson, Mercedes, who have opted to retain the zero-pods of last season, are facing an uphill challenge getting back on par with Red Bull and even catching Ferrari.

“I wouldn’t say they’re in denial,” said the former F1 driver.

“Perhaps there’s a bit of going in the wrong direction of last year but lessons were learnt and just because the sidepods are the same and the car looks similar, it doesn’t mean it fundamentally has the same philosophy.

“I know things have changed in their approach. They do have a new ride height for this season and they’re trying to mimic Red Bull and Ferrari… in their own way.”

Red Bull, though, would be difficult to mimic this season as the Milton Keynes squad has gone with a very eye-catching sidepod design – effectively slashing them all the way through to the rear tyre.

Red Bull kept the RB19 under covers until the very last minute, only revealing the new car as it was pushed down the pit lane to get to the grid for the class of 2023 photograph.

It took mere minutes, if not seconds, for everyone to notice the sidepod design with their deep tunnel. recommends

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This year the RB19’s sidepods feature an undercut on the side all the way up to the rear of the car. It’s dramatic, and it’s extreme.

There are also changes to the shape of the nose, floor and engine cover.

The Race’s Gary Anderson said the RB19 had the “same suspension philosophy as 2022, a pullrod front with lots of stagger on the inboard pick-ups of the top wishbone, and a pushrod rear.

“It’s the first car where we can see the detail along the floor edge, and there is lots of this. It’s a very important area because of the rule changes raising this section of the floor.”

Red Bull Racing RB19 detail

Pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz was interested in what he saw out on track on Thursday.

“Mercedes have to be one of the biggest stories of the winter because they’ve got such a long way to make up, nine, 10 months of development after last year’s car didn’t work out,” he told Sky Sports.

“The car looks good so far, none of the bouncing we saw last year but they’ll know more after today.

“Red Bull haven’t stood still, there is definitely a family resemblance from last year’s car but I have spotted a new rear wing and there’s a new floor of course, while it’s based on a new lighter weight chassis. Immediately, they’ve got a few tenths, maybe even half a second, out of a lighter chassis itself.

“This Red Bull was developed before their aerodynamic penalties were applied but those will bite later on in the season. So Red Bull need to get their shots in early, while maybe Ferrari can catch up once the season gets going.”