Swapping the zero-pods for bulging sidepods in Monaco, Anthony Davidson can understand why Mercedes aren’t closing the gap to Red Bull as the car was never “designed” to have sidepods.
27 races into Formula 1’s new ground-effect aerodynamic era, Mercedes decided to scrap their zero-pod sidepods in favour of a more traditional design with some bulk to it.
The decision came after months of pundits asking Mercedes if the zero-pods were the cause of their troubles, and the revamped look answered that with a definitive no. There was more behind the W14’s struggles.
Mercedes W14 was never designed to have sidepods
Although there was a minor improvement in Mercedes’ results after Monaco, the team on the podium in three of the next four races, they by no means made the gains they’d hoped for.
Former F1 driver Davidson reckons that’s because changing the sidepods was a “cut and shut” job with the basic philosophy of the car’s design never meant to factor in sidepods.
“The car was, let’s not forget, the car was never designed to look like this this year,” he told the Sky Sports podcast after the Japanese Grand Prix.
“It was never designed in the first place to have sidepods, they switched that coming into Monaco.
“And it’s a bit of a, with all respect in the world, it is a bit of a cut and shut job. I think the team would admit that themselves.
“It wasn’t designed from the ground up to look like this, to behave like this, so you’re fighting fires in many ways.
“And I think next year starting from a clean sheet with what they’ve learned from this year’s car, and this year’s add-ons if you like, I think it must be – and I think all the hope is there – that it must be a better car going into next.”
Mercedes wary of Red Bull’s continued advantage into 2024
Mercedes are set to make fundamental changes to the basic bones of the car ahead of the new season, Lewis Hamilton saying the team needs to put in the “greatest six months of development we’ve ever had” if they want to challenge Red Bull for top honours next season.
Frustrated with his car’s handling at the Japanese Grand Prix, a race in which he finished fifth, and afterward declared nothing had changed from last year to this season, Davidson says Hamilton’s frustration is understandable.
Even more so because Red Bull, leaps ahead of their rivals, have been able to switch their focus onto their 2024 car long before the rest of the grid could do so.
“I think you hear a level of frustration at just seeing Max Verstappen and Red Bull just romp away with it and destroy the competition. So you know, straight after the race, you’re a bit devastated by that,” he said.
“But in a pragmatic way, looking to improve the car in every way possible. And I think he’s aware, the team are aware, and everybody else, that Red Bull have the advantage at the moment in a similar way to Mercedes have an advantage before this current sort of regulation.
“And when you’ve got that advantage, and you’re winning championship after championship, whether or not you’ve got penalties and cost caps, or whatever, it’s given you such a backlog of time to carry on developing next year’s car, you just constantly sit ahead of the competition.
“They’re scrambling to try to make headway to catch that gap and you’ve got that buffer, that margin, to work on your next year’s car.
“So that’s why Lewis is alluding to the fact that we need to work harder than ever right now to catch that gap because they’re going to make massive gains next year as well. And we need to catch them, not only catch up what they are behind now.
“So you’ve got to almost do double the work that they can helped a little bit by the fact that the way these new regulations work in that you get less wind tunnel time when you keep winning championships.
“That’s why we’ve seen the likes of Aston Martin and McLaren make a lot of gains this year because of where they finished in last year’s championship, and where they currently sit in the championship now. So yes, it will help a little bit for Mercedes in that respect, but there are things that they need to sort out with a car.”