Mercedes incorporate unique sidepod updates to the W14

25 May, 2023

The new sidepods from the Mercedes factory are the most highly anticipated technical innovation of the Montecarlo GP. Without any on-track action, images of the new and updated Mercedes W14 have already sent fans into a frenzy.

“We are taking the first step in a new development direction. It won’t allow us to make an incredible leap forward; from my experience, those don’t exist in our sport,” Toto Wolff has explained.

“But we hope it offers us a more stable and predictable platform to be developed in the weeks and months to come.”

The Anglo-German team will abandon the failed “Zero Sidepod ” concept. As we have anticipated in recent days, their new package includes; a new front suspension, a revised power steering, some new sidepods and a new bottom, which would have been worth worth ‘only’ 2 tenths at Imola.

In fact, according to Mercedes, this different development direction will limit the immediate performance advantage of this crucial package, which must be understood and optimized.

Its introduction on an unconventional track like Monte Carlo leaves even more important question marks for the personnel in the Championship-winning team.

“What we will put in the car, we don’t know if it will really bring us any advantages in Montecarlo,” said Toto Wolff. Above all, the new front mechanics, since all the stiffness on the ground of the W14 will change in transients, with the map that will be completely different.

Mercedes W14: The new Sidepods do not have an important undercut

In this second season of these regulations, the cars are evolving rapidly. Those who are behind will inevitably look to those who are faster, as Red Bull clearly is this season.

The regulatory changes from last season also put the aerodynamic concept of the Maranello car in difficulty. It is no coincidence that many have opted only for a combination of the characteristics from the two cars (Red Bull and Ferrari) at the front in 2022.

This was the case with Alpine and Mclaren, while Aston Martin and Williams went more clearly in the direction of Adrian Newey’s car. The only car that has clearly gone in the Ferrari direction is Haas due to the many components they purchase from the Maranello team.

Mercedes W14

The new Mercedes belly pans, like those of the Ferrari SF-23, don’t tend too much to reward the flow of the airflow in the initial part of the bottom, rather to their displacement towards the outside, also helping to remove the turbulent wake of the tires front.

In short, what in technical jargon has by now been defined as the “undercut” is very contained in the new specification. By contrast, Red Bull is the team that has always taken the air passage between the lower part of the bellies and the upper edge of the floor to extremes, advancing the cooling vents and creating a large flare that many other teams, such as Aston Martin, have also integrated.

Mercedes W14

The new sidepods are very reminiscent of the solutions developed by Ferrari with the F1-75 and the SF-23, more so than the RB19. In addition to the first section, the final part of the sidepod tends to go back a little with a slight inwash effect, a concept that Ferrari has researched and taken to extremes with these new regulations.

This has been a clear difference from the philosophy introduced by Adrian Newey and his men at the back of the sidepods, which have been followed by the majority of the other teams.

Mercedes W14: In the upper part, the sides have the well-known downwash effect

It is interesting to note that even though Ferrari cannot adopt a Red Bull philosophy for its 2023 car – due to the positioning of the anti-intrusion cones – Mercedes could have done it. The Mercedes chassis, as well as the Red Bull chassis, house the lower side impact structure within the venturi mouths, having a wider channel in the undercut portion.

The side impact structure is, in fact, positioned at the lower regulatory limit. Instead, Ferrari’s thinking goes in another direction, namely in having a venturi duct free from “obstacles”, sacrificing the upper part, therefore keeping the anti-intrusion cone in a higher position, as clearly evident from the illustration below.

This has generated limits in the possibility of flaring both on the F1-75 and on the SF-23, so much so that in Maranello, they only carried out a slight intervention on the undercut of their 2023 car.

However, the Anglo-German team had already made it known that it would not bring a carbon copy of the Red Bull bellies to the track due to some adjustments to the internal components that require a lot of time. This is why the front has no major undercuts and is so similar to what was already seen with the SF-23.

Mercedes W14

However, the upper part is inspired by Red Bull – although it more closely follows the path taken by Alpine and McLaren last season.

It isn’t a real extreme of the now well-established downwash effect, as can be seen with Aston Martin, even if the flow is moved towards the top of the diffuser to extract the aerodynamic load from the rear of the car in the best possible way.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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