Mercedes could not find anything ‘fundamentally’ wrong to trigger W14 concept changes

Michelle Foster

Toto Wolff is adamant Mercedes’ sidepod design is “not something” that was “fundamentally” wrong and that’s why the team has continued with zero-pod philosophy with this year’s W14.

Bouncing from one track to another in the first part of last year’s championship, pundits suggested Mercedes’ zero-pod design wasn’t helping the team when it came to porpoising as it didn’t provide enough stability for the floor.

But as the season progressed and Mercedes seemed to get a handle on the bouncing, the team backed the zero-pod with Wolff saying his designers believe it’s the right sidepod concept.

So much so that Mercedes have carried it over into this year’s W14.

There was a lot of speculation last season about whether or not Mercedes would drop the design in favour of a more robust sidepod concept, but they said at the time they weren’t a team who copied others and they’ve stuck to that.

The all-new W14, launched last week, features the slimmed down sidepods with Mercedes the only team to go down that route.

Wolff says that’s because it wasn’t the fundamental cause of last year’s troubles.

“I think it’s important to be bold in this sport,” the Mercedes motorsport boss declared to the media including PlanetF1.com, “and I’m still proud of the solutions that were put on the car last year.

“Our sidepod design is not something that we believe was fundamentally the reason why we didn’t perform.

“There is no holy cows in our concept, it’s not that we don’t want to follow anybody’s ideas, we kept with the narrow sidepod as it is. But it’s not the core fundamental performance part as we judge.”

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The Austrian conceded that 2022, a year in which Mercedes won just one grand prix with George Russell P1 at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, was not the year Mercedes wanted.

Mercedes went into the 2021 campaign holding both World titles, lost the Drivers’ to Max Verstappen that year and then the Constructors’ to Red Bull last season.

That means this season they’ll line on the grid not holding either of the two titles for the first time since 2013.

“Last year was difficult but it came with lots of learnings,” Wolff said. “I hope 2023 will be proof that we have understood how to unravel the problems and improve the package of the car.

“W13 certainly had performance which we never were able to unlock and put all its downforce on the ground.

“Our car performed very well at the end of the season. However, we still had the famous bouncing at some circuits and the car never gave the drivers good feedback, which limited them in being able to really push.

“We have tried to keep all the goodness of the W13 and address its weaknesses.”

He added: “The entire organisation was pushing flat out last year. When we realised that the car wasn’t where we wanted it to be, we mobilised every reserve we had. That never stopped throughout the season.

“We are now getting ready to start the next season. I see so much effort, motivation, and energy in the organisation to launch a car that will eventually be competitive enough to fight at the very front of the grid.”

Wolff says Mercedes are ready for the challenge that lies ahead, the team not only keen to get back onto the top step of the podium but also wanting to regain the championship titles.

“What’s great in the team is that there is so much energy and so much motivation,” he added, “because after many very successful years, you always run the risk that it becomes normal or it becomes the baseline to win.

“Obviously we were taught a tough lesson last year that you’ve got to be your best self, the best team in order to fight this formidable competition. Therefore, getting it wrong last year, I believe will be good long term.

“We talked about it every single year when we were successful, that eventually, we’re going to have a difficult season because there is no sports team in the world that won every single competition they participated in.

“So that moment arrived last year and it was difficult because it was just not a race that went wrong. It was a whole season, or the whole first half of the season at least.

“So it was about really living to our own standards, staying motivated, not blaming anyone in the organisation, but sticking our heads together and trying to work our way out of the dilemma.

“That’s something that showed the strength of the team and our values and the mindset and hopefully there can be good continuous pace for our growth.”