George Russell’s Mercedes W14 wishlist suggest zero-pods are here to stay

Henry Valantine
The Mercedes W13 of George Russell sporting a tribute logo. Belgium, August 2022.

The Mercedes W13 of George Russell sporting a tribute logo to celebrate 55 years of AMG. Belgium, August 2022.

George Russell has “a lot” on his wishlist for how his 2023 Mercedes will be, but a change of sidepod philosophy is not on there.

Mercedes raised eyebrows throughout the paddock when their so-called ‘zero-pod’ design was rolled out for the second pre-season test in Bahrain in 2022, with a markedly thinner area for air intake compared to their rivals.

The W13 lagged behind Red Bull and Ferrari for most of the season, due in no small part to Mercedes’ early problems with ‘porpoising’, whereby the W13 ‘bounced’ through fast corners and on straights as the car’s ground effect aerodynamics made it oscillate up and down, but questions were also raised about what other areas in which Mercedes may have lacked compared to their rivals in 2022.

With that in mind when he was speaking to media including, Russell was asked about what would be on his wishlist for the W14 for the year ahead.

“I think there’s a lot to be honest,” he responded. “As I said [in Brazil], even though the performance was great last week, the overall characteristics of the car aren’t too dissimilar to what we faced at the start of the year.

“So there’s still a lot of improvements we need to make, and I think that’s why it gives us quite a lot of confidence, knowing that there’s still a lot of things we need to iron out.”

Addressing a question from specifically on the zero-pod concept which made the W13 stand out from the crowd, at least aesthetically, the Briton said his team were prioritising other areas of the car to look at for 2023.

“I think our issues don’t really have a lot to do with the sort of sidepod philosophy,” Russell said. “We may be wrong, but I’m quite confident it’s not the reason for our lack of performance this year.

“To be honest, we’re focused on other features of the car as opposed to the sidepods necessarily.”

Discussing how his car was handling in Abu Dhabi, Russell spoke of the return of porpoising to his car that weekend, after Mercedes had seemingly managed to get on top of the worst of the issue after the summer break.

Extra provisions to limit porpoising are being made by the FIA in the 2023 Technical Regulations to try and protect the health of the drivers, after some severely bumpy rides were reported through the season – perhaps most pertinently among both Mercedes drivers.

This is music to Russell’s ears in particular, having suffered from the effects of the phenomenon again at the season finale at Yas Marina.

“We still had some porpoising this weekend through the high-speed corners, so that wasn’t incredibly pleasant,” Russell explained.

“It probably contributed to why we were further behind Red Bull than we have been on the last two races. The last few races, there were no high-speed corners, so there was no porpoising there.

“So it’s good that the changes the FIA introduced for next year are still being implemented, because it’s clear that porpoising is still hanging around.”

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

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