All eyes were on Mercedes’ garage as the Formula 1 teams continued to unpack their freight and complete their final preparations for the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
A weekend in which Mercedes’ new-look sidepods are set to be the talk of the town.
Last season, as Formula 1 welcomed the arrival of ground effect aerodynamic cars to the grid, Mercedes debuted a W13 that barely had any sidepod. It was dubbed the zero-pod, a complete contrast to Ferrari’s baby bath look and Red Bull’s undercut.
But with the W13 bouncing from one track to another, Mercedes suffering with more porpoising than any other team, it was suggested the zero-pods were a large part of the problem as there wasn’t enough of them to keep the floor stable.
Toto Wolff made it clear mid-season that if his design team believed this was the way to go, he’d back them, and back them he did all the way to a distant third place in the Constructors’ Championship.
It was a year in which Mercedes won just one grand prix and Lewis Hamilton went win-less for the first time in his 16-year career.
After much debate, and most of it probably in the media, Mercedes continued with the zero-pods with this year’s W14 but, 50 seconds down the road at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Wolff admitted the team wouldn’t win races if the car stayed the same.
Promising big changes to come, but never actually saying the zero-pods would be one of them, Mercedes it seems have finally made the call. The zero-pods are no more, abandoned on the factory floor.
On display in the Monte Carlo pit lane, the new design features a wider and rounded sidepod inlet with a tunnel under the sidepod that draws inspiration from the Red Bull downwash design but without the severe undercut.
It has been suggested they’re more Aston Martin and Alpine than Red Bull-esque.
Comparativas de los nuevos pontones de Mercedes
— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) May 25, 2023
The sidepods aren’t the only change Mercedes have made with the front suspension layout also altered.
There’s also a new floor on the W14 and changes to the cooling system.
Mercedes' front suspension redesign is significant too:
-The upper wishbone is now sloped downwards➡️Much higher anti-dive (the car will pitch more under braking, so it could be run lower!)
-Camber gain seems smaller than before➡️Better braking but worse low-speed understeer?🤔… pic.twitter.com/UiY40iR2NT
— 📈Formula Data Analysis (@FDataAnalysis) May 24, 2023
Mercedes are hoping the upgraded Monaco package will be a notable improvement on the car raced last time out in Miami.
But while Hamilton would’ve liked a one-second improvement, the Briton himself conceded that “it’s not like I have a one-second upgrade coming, which is what I need. But it’s something. It’s a step in the right direction, hopefully, for us to really be able to progress.”
Wolff urged his drivers to keep their expectations in check, telling Sky Deutschland: “I don’t think we’ll get there and suddenly we’re half a second faster and in the middle of a fight. We won’t.
“But we are now laying a new foundation and at least taking some issues off the table that we believe are contributing to us being too slow. Let’s see what that brings.”