Mercedes release ‘car concept’ explainer amidst talk of W14 overhaul

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes' George Russell at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Mercedes' George Russell at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

With all the talk of a ‘concept’ change coming for the Mercedes W14, the team decided to put together a guide to explain what this phrase actually means.

The eight-time Constructors’ champs have made an underwhelming start to the F1 2023 campaign, their W14 failing to build on the progress made by the W13, which became a grand prix winner for the first and only time at the hands of George Russell at the penultimate 2022 round in Sao Paulo.

But Mercedes now face a fresh recovery mission with reigning Constructors’ champs Red Bull having started the 2023 campaign in dominant fashion, hoovering up all poles and wins on offer across the opening three rounds.

And when attempts have been made by watching eyes to pinpoint where Mercedes have been going wrong, commonly attention has been drawn to the unique design which Mercedes introduced for the W13, marking the start of Formula 1’s new regulatory era, and one which has largely carried over to the W14.

The most striking aspect is their sidepod design, the narrow inlets leading to it being dubbed the ‘zero pod’ concept.

But it is that final word which Mercedes has felt compelled to explain the meaning of further, as to them, a ‘concept’ change is not simply bolting on more traditional looking sidepods.

‘In F1, there are three key technical elements that generate car performance: tyres, power unit, and aerodynamics,’ the team point out in their explainer piece.

‘We have an influence over all of them, but the biggest differentiator of the three is the aerodynamics. And when we talk about aero, we’re not just talking about the shape of the car and the bodywork.

‘It’s also about how we use the car, how we control the car, how we evolve the balance and set-up to work with the aero package. Because those factors also impact the aerodynamic performance on track.’

Mercedes have already written off their current avenue with the W14, team boss Toto Wolff confirming that the “layout” of the car will change for Imola, and so the team would delve deeper into the aerodynamics side and explain the areas which are of greatest concern for finding performance.

And staying true to their past comments, Mercedes affirmed that the sidepods are not the key difference maker.

‘The most influential element of an aerodynamic package is the front wing because it’s the first piece of the car that hits the air,’ the team state. ‘It’s also one of the most visually striking differences to the car, along with the sidepods and rear wing, when we bring a new specification.

‘However, the area of the car that generates the most downforce is hidden from view: the floor. The rest of the bodywork still makes a difference and influences how the downforce is generated across the car and from the floor, but the majority of the performance comes from the floor and wings.’

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And so, do such alterations amount to a ‘concept’ change? ‘Well, no,’ is the answer to that from Mercedes, ‘because a car is constantly changing and evolving’ beyond what we can see with our own eyes.

In summary then, Mercedes describe the term ‘concept’ as a combination of all the theories and ideas that go into making a Formula 1 car and pushing to make it the fastest in the field, though point out that this is naturally ‘always a moving target’ rather than moving to and from defined packages and stages.

Mercedes will very much be hoping that the ideas which have gone into their upcoming W14 alterations will bring them back into the fight with Red Bull, considering that they already trail the reigning double champs by 67 points in the Constructors’ standings.