Goodbye zero-pods? Mercedes confirm ‘sidepod geometry’ an area of interest for new W14 concept

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton aerial 44 Mercedes W14 sidepods. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Lewis Hamilton aerial 44 Mercedes W14 sidepods. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes have remained stern in defence of their zero-pod concept, though with a heavily-updated W14 said to be coming, ‘sidepod geometry’ is something the team are looking at.

When Formula 1 introduced its all-new Technical Regulations for F1 2022, rules that saw the cars switch to ground effect aerodynamics, Mercedes soon went down a very different path to their main rivals at the time Red Bull, and also Ferrari.

Mercedes would unveil what has become known as the ‘zero-pod’ concept, their sidepods reduced to only very narrow inlets, and this is a design which has been used on 2022’s W13 and now the W14 for F1 2023.

It was a disappointing 2022 for Mercedes though who scored just one pole and win all season, while the W14 has failed to take the team forward in F1 2023, if anything the eight-time Constructors’ champions have fallen backwards, with P4 their best result in the opening two races.

Obviously many had pointed at the zero-pod concept as the potential glaring flaw in these Mercedes designs, something which the team and both drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have consistently denied.

However, with Mercedes disappointed by this tough start to F1 2023, the team has teased a major revision of the W14 concept to come, and for the first time, it seems the team are open to a re-think on their sidepods.

Asked as part of Mercedes’ Saudi Arabian GP debrief to explain what is meant by a concept change, technical director Mike Elliott said: “The simple answer is it means different things to different people.

“I think after Bahrain we had to accept we weren’t where we wanted to be, so we had to look at all the things that make up our car and work out what could we be doing differently, how could we get more performance because there is a significant gap for us to catch up to the front.

“So, the engineers are busy looking at aerodynamics, they are looking at the shape of the car, things like the sidepod geometry, the floor geometry, have we missed a trick? recommends

Nico Rosberg: Lewis Hamilton losing trainer Angela Cullen will ‘make things even worse’
Ferrari pace concerns arise as engines were not turned down at Saudi Arabian GP

“But we are also looking in the simulation world; are we targeting the right things, are we pushing the aerodynamics in the right direction, looking at the mechanical setup of the car.

“Are there things there that we are missing? What else can we bring to the car that is going to add performance and we try to do that as fast as we possibly can because we want to get back to the front, we want to be competing at the front and the only way we are going to do that is by accepting we are not in the position we want to be and fighting and working really hard to get back there.”

While Red Bull have made an almighty start to the F1 2023 season, taking both pole positions on offer so far and a pair of one-two finishes on race day, Mercedes have been left fighting Aston Martin and Ferrari in a rather distant ‘best of the rest’ pack.

Mercedes got the better of Ferrari in Saudi Arabia, Russell finishing P4 and Hamilton P5, though the pair were no match for Red Bull and for the second race running finished behind Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.