McLaren’s significant advancement with their Austrian/British GP package, drawing inspiration from the sidepod concepts of Red Bull and Aston Martin, has left competitors contemplating whether they too should pursue a radical shift in direction.
Although Mercedes has maintained that modifications to sidepods and bodywork are not a major factor in performance differentiation, it is evident that rivals are witnessing notable improvements resulting from adjustments in this particular domain.
While Mercedes did adopt a more Red Bull-influenced downwash sidepod solution during this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, they have yet to fully embrace the extent of changes pursued by certain other teams.
As per team principal Toto Wolff, Mercedes refrained from adopting a Red Bull design in its wind tunnel at an early stage due to the lack of perceived advantages – in fact, it resulted in a degradation of their car’s performance.
Nevertheless, Wolff acknowledges that McLaren’s successful implementation and evident success with the concept could potentially encourage a reassessment within the Mercedes team, prompting them to revisit the idea.
When questioned by Motorsport.com about Mercedes’ decision not to pursue the Red Bull concept despite others attesting to its significant gains, Toto Wolff, the boss at Mercedes, responded with the following insight:
“We had the sidepod concept and the bodywork in the tunnel very early on already, to see which avenues you could open up and how much it would add to performance.
“And the relative loss of downforce, the way we measure it, was substantial. So, it’s not something that we wanted to follow up early in the year.
“Will we change our design direction? I think we have a great group of aerodynamicists led by James [Allison] and I’m sure that it will be a consideration seeing the step they [McLaren] made.”
Wolff is convinced that the key to Mercedes taking a leap forward lies in unlocking more power from its floor and undercarriage, rather than the visible bodywork.
He believes that this is the area that will make the biggest difference in terms of performance.
By focusing on the unseen parts of the car, Mercedes can make a significant improvement in their overall performance.
“The sidepods and the bodywork are just one part of the chassis, and it clearly looks like there are interesting solutions that it opens up,” he said.
“But most of the performance comes from the floor and the diffuser, and we haven’t seen how they interpreted the regulations and how they’ve done it.
“In my opinion, it’s just the fact that we see that the strong cars look a little bit the same when you look from the side and from top down, and certainly that played in our minds already back in the day. Maybe that’s just more an indication about where it goes.”