Mercedes defend W14 concept: ‘If you copy someone else, you go backwards’

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage. Bahrain February 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton prepares to leave the garage during testing. Bahrain February 2023.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has defended Mercedes’ decision to persevere with the zero-pod concept for their W14 car for the 2023 Formula 1 season, claiming teams who copy others’ ideas “go backwards” before going forwards.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are bracing themselves for a challenging start to the new campaign after the W14 appeared to be firmly behind reigning World Champions Red Bull – and potentially Ferrari and Aston Martin – in the competitive order at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

After being restricted to a single victory in 2022 as they struggled with porpoising, many expressed surprise that Mercedes remained faithful to the slim-sidepod philosophy this year with former F1 driver and Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle admitting he expected the Silver Arrows to produce a “looky-likey” Red Bull for 2023.

However, Shovlin is convinced that Mercedes start from a better position this year having effectively eliminated the bouncing problem abd doubts that simply copying another team’s concept is no quick fix for struggling teams.

“The big thing is we’ve got rid of the bouncing, so we’re able to run the car where we want to,” he told Sky Sports following the opening practice session in Bahrain. “It’s much, much smoother than what we had last year.

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“We’re still working on the balance, we haven’t really got that where we need it even though we had the three days, so there’s more to do.

“The sidepods are a similar theme, but if you go and copy someone else you go backwards before you go forwards.

“The big focus for us was really just trying to add performance and get rid of that bouncing.”

Shovlin appeared to not rule out Mercedes potentially evolving away from the zero-pod concept, admitting that teams routinely look to their rivals for idea and inspiration.

However, he stressed the tackling of the porpoising problem as a key step in the team’s potential re-emergence as a regular victory contender.

He added: “In terms of the concept we’ll look at where we are this weekend, we’ll look at where we are in the early races.

“We’ve got evolutions coming in terms of sidepod design that Mike [Elliott, technical director] talked about last week, so there’s a lot that we need to evaluate anyway.

“But the porpoising was something that really held us back last year. If we’ve got a car that we’ve managed to eradicate that, we’ve got something that we can build and develop on.

“The process of looking at other cars, we’re doing that all the time and trying to take any sort of initiatives that we can apply to ours for a gain, that’s happening constantly.”