F1 watching closely as Mercedes debuts ‘extreme’ sidepod design

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

F1 watching closely as Mercedes debuts ‘extreme’ sidepod design

Formula 1

F1 watching closely as Mercedes debuts ‘extreme’ sidepod design

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Mercedes has appeared at the final pre-season test in Bahrain with a significant upgrade that features a radical sidepod design.

A pre-session staged photograph featuring all 10 teams saw the W13 rolled out onto the grid with a cooling solution that features almost non-existent sidepods. The extremely narrow vertical inlets are followed by heavily sculpted bodywork that is remarkable solution to the 2022 regulations, with Lewis Hamilton giving the car its first laps with sensors behind the front wheels to monitor the airflow to the sidepod area.

Formula 1’s Ross Brawn says the solution is one that the sport’s technical team did not see coming, but he expects there to be plenty of discussion about it among the teams.

“I think there’s no doubt that the Mercedes concept, we didn’t anticipate,” Brawn said. “It’s a very extreme interpretation of the regulation and I think there’s going to be, inevitably, a lot of debate about their interpretation — that’s what happens with new regs. However hard you try to close off all the options — and believe me we closed off hundreds of them — the innovation in F1 is always extreme.

“From our perspective it’s largely about, ‘Does it affect the objective of the regs?’ but for the teams they want to be sure no one has taken an interpretation they don’t feel is correct, so I think there’s going to be a lot of debate in the next few days.”

While Brawn says it’s dangerous to try and interpret whether a design matches the intention of the regulations, if it’s clearly impacting the aim of improving racing then he says there is scope for some solutions to be retrospectively banned.

“One significant thing we changed was the governance. In the past you needed everybody to agree to a change in the season, now it’s 80%, as long as the FIA and F1 also agree. So I think once the interpretation Mercedes has made has been understood, then we can get a balanced view or we can take a view of its impact, what effect it is going to have.

“The spirit is such a gray area, and at the end of the day you have to go on what the wording of the regulation is, as if you take it to a court that’s what they judge it on. But with an 80% team majority we can change the wording, so if something has slipped by then the team is aware that can happen, and that can happen live during the season, so we need to see how this one plays out.”

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