There might not have been a collective sigh of relief when Mercedes stripped the sheet metal from its Formula 1 car, but the carryover of its design was certainly on people’s minds: the sidepods. They were the same. Mercedes has doubled its “zeropod” design for 2023 and is confident it has learned enough by 2022 and into the off-season to improve its concept and performance. But with team principal Toto Wolff and the rest of the F1 team now staging two races in the new season, that’s simply not the case.

In discussions with the media, Wolff accepted that the team had to change direction in terms of design and that his zeropod concept will not perform as he had hoped. As a result, Mercedes now see Red Bull’s design as a goalpost – and would not be ashamed to adopt some of the world champion’s ideas.

“If it’s a Red Bull, we’ll put a little bull with a sticker somewhere and I won’t be ashamed if it’s quick,” Wolff said loudly

“I think at this point we don’t have any dogmatism as to what the car should look like,” added Wolff. “It just has to be the fastest possible race car. And if this car looks like a Red Bull or like SpaceX, I don’t care, it just has to be fast.”


After the season-opening race in Bahrain, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, advisor Helmut Marko and even racing driver Sergio Perez lightheartedly poked fun at Aston Martin for copying its design. Horner went so far as to say that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”. I bet they probably aren’t laughing now because they know the green cars will be there to catch them if they slip.

Anyhow, Wolff – and the rest of the paddock – is aware of how much Aston Martin has improved by following the Red Bull route and he made sure to address that in his comments to the press brought.

“What Aston Martin has done definitely proves that you can gain so much lap time in six or seven months that you can be very competitive. So that’s good to see. It’s good to see for all of us.” that you shouldn’t write off a season when such steps are possible,” said Wolff.

Of course, decking out the W14 with some Red Bull-esque sidepods and sending it to win its first race of the year isn’t that easy. No, it requires an overhaul of the whole concept of the car, from the floor to the exhaust and the rear wing; everything has to be patched up again, maybe even completely redrawn. Because of this, Wolff doesn’t expect a quick turnaround in performance, but remains optimistic that Mercedes will offer Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a winning car later this year.

“Of course everything else follows in terms of ground and bodywork that you’re trying to achieve, so I don’t want to sound too stupidly optimistic, but at least we’re seeing low-hanging fruit with encouraging things,” he said.

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