Why Mercedes steered clear of an F1 car concept revamp despite early struggles

Mercedes opted against revamping its Formula 1 car concept despite its early struggles in 2022 as it felt following other designs would "only get you so far."

Why Mercedes steered clear of an F1 car concept revamp despite early struggles

Mercedes failed to regularly challenge Red Bull and Ferrari at the front of the pack through the first half of this season as it struggled with porpoising and bouncing on its W13 car.

The team opted for a different design route compared to the rest of the field, chasing a slimline sidepod solution that was dubbed the 'zeropod' when it debuted in Bahrain testing.

As the season progressed, Mercedes gained a better understanding of its car and the issues it faced, paving the way for George Russell to score pole in Hungary at the end of July. 

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained Mercedes was "not wanting to go down the route of just copying the fastest car that we could see", instead taking a long-term view with its car concept.

"When you look at the long-term future as a team through a set of regulations, if you don't understand it, copying will only get you so far," Shovlin told Autosport.

"The most sensitive elements of the car's aerodynamics exist underneath it. So the bit that you are least able to copy is the bit that's most important anyway.

"I would say that in the media, the concept of the narrow bodywork was probably a much bigger talking point than it was within the team.

"But we weren't clinging to it through any kind of sort of affection for our own ideas."

Shovlin said the problems Mercedes faced "would not have been solved by changing our bodywork in a hurry" and following other design routes for this year, particularly given the pressure of the budget cap.

"We need to be very careful about where we're where we're spending that [resource] and what we didn't want to do was embark on a project that might take four to six weeks to deliver," Shovlin said.

George Russell, Mercedes W13

George Russell, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

"We wanted to go step-by-step and check, does what we're doing on the car makes sense with all of our tools and all of our expectations?

"Because we were almost tiptoeing through the early steps of development, just to see if we can make a change to the car and get the expected effect, rather than put all our hopes in motion for something that looks physically different and can suddenly rocket us up the grid."

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Mercedes has not ruled out switching car concept for next year and following a Red Bull-style design route, given the majority of teams have opted for its sidepod solution. 

Team principal Toto Wolff said Mercedes had "no specific preference" over what concept it follows, but that it is simply "about having the quickest car."

"We will never copy anybody else, but we may see things on other cars that we deem to be better," Wolff told Autosport.

"So these fundamental questions are being discussed at the moment and [will be] answered by September." 

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