‘Toto Wolff still not convinced the new Mercedes sidepod concept is the better one’

Michelle Foster
Mercedes revised no zeropod sidepods. Monaco May 2023

Mercedes revised no zeropod sidepods. Monaco May 2023

Toto Wolff is reportedly “not convinced” Mercedes’ new sidepod concept is better than the zero-pod design but the team changed it anyway, says F1 journalist Christian Menath.

Having run a zero-pod design, dubbed that because of the lack of bulk to the sidepods, Mercedes won just one race in 28 in F1’s new ground effect aerodynamic era.

But while the team stayed true to their philosophy even after last season’s disappointment, team boss Wolff conceded at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix that the team would probably not win a race without radical changes.

Those changes included axing the zero-pods, although that wasn’t the only new part on the W14 at the Monaco Grand Prix with the team also introducing a new front suspension and floor.

It’s the latter that from Motorsport-Magazin’s Menath believes it the key to Mercedes’ upturn in form.

“What is a concept? You’ve heard that question from the Mercedes engineers quite a lot,” he said on the F1 Nation podcast. “They now have sidepods.

“We were talking to Andrea Stella, and he was talking about sidepods and why these wide sidepods work better with this generation of cars and bring the best out of the floor because everyone is talking about the floor.

“The floor is the big performance differentiator because 40 percent of the total downforce is generated by the floor but the floor has to work, and it doesn’t work in isolation.

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“So a Formula One car, you always have to look at every single aspect from the front wing to the rear wing, and also from the sidepods.

“Toto said they just wanted to take out something of the equation – he’s still not convinced that the concept of these sidepods is the better one, they just wanted to take something out of the equation to be sure where the problem is.

“But I think that was part of the problem. For me, it’s definitely the right direction. But who am I to judge 1000 engineers in Brackley.”

Russell, who finished third at the Spanish Grand Prix to mark his first podium of this season behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, has also insists it’s not the sidepods that have created the magic.

“It’s not the sidepods what make the difference,” he told Sky Sports. “It may be a factor, but the magic isn’t in the sidepods.

“We brought that design to the car to kind of rule it out, the sidepods. The magic was done underneath the car, on the floor. That’s the same for every single team.”

In fact he reckons that is Red Bull’s RB19 adopted a no-sidepod concept, they’d still be winning races.

“I’m sure Red Bull could put no sidepods on their car and still be the quickest,” he added.

“It’s a little bit more complex than that but nevertheless, really happy with the work the team have done and the validation that the steps we’ve made are steps in the right direction.”

With a double podium in only their second race in the B-spec car, Mercedes have leapfrogged Aston Martin for second place in the Constructors’ Championship where they are now 18 points ahead.