“Visible changes” to Mercedes’ 2023 Formula 1 car are likely within the next few grands prix, but the mooted “bigger departures and more radical changes” remain some way off.
It only took until the first qualifying day of the 2023 F1 season for team principal Toto Wolff to declare that the car concept Mercedes had retained for this year was probably an incorrect route and would need to be reconsidered.
And when asked by The Race about whether the same applied to the upgrade package Mercedes already had in the works, Wolff replied that it did.
In the team’s post-Bahrain Grand Prix debrief video, its trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin suggested changes that did offer potential gains could be imminent but backed Wolff’s stance that the degree of alteration that was really required might be a much longer project.
He also alluded to the possibility of the distinctive minimal sidepods being replaced by a version more in line with the rest of the field.
“People have tended to use the word concept when they mean the sidepod design and Toto had said recently that we are looking at a revision that is going to come along in the next few races anyway,” said Shovlin.
“Given the gap to the front of course we are going to look at bigger departures and more radical changes.
“But those changes take time to turn into a faster solution in the windtunnel – you can’t do them overnight. There is quite a lot of development that you’ve got to do around any sort of big change in geometry in that area.
“Of course, we are looking at where we can improve the car, we are looking for potential to develop and you will see visible changes coming on the car over the next few races.”
What Mercedes might need to change
“They need to know what is driving the lack of performance. Just because the sidepod’s different, it doesn’t mean that therefore it’s the sidepod.
“It’s much more likely to be found in the interplay between the underfloor and the sidepods and the rear end of the car.
“It’s clearly aerodynamic. Mechanically it’s the same as the Aston Martin at the back so it’s to do with the airflow coming over the front wing, through the front suspension, down the sidepods and under the floor. That’s a huge area and it’s not just, ‘let’s change the sidepods’.
“Even changing the sidepods can quite often involve a fundamental re-engineering because you’ve got to possibly move radiators, mounting points and things like that. I don’t think it’s as simple as, ‘let’s change the sidepods’ to something more conventional.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see different sidepods on the car. But it would surprise me immensely if that turned out to be the ‘light switch’ moment.”
Where does James Allison fit in?
There have been suggestions former technical director James Allison has been parachuted in to take over full-time leadership of the project as Mercedes attempts to set on the right direction. However, his role remains unchanged.
Allison’s current job title is chief technical officer across the Mercedes F1 team and its applied science division. He also that role for the Ineos Britannia America’s Cup team.
His role changed in the middle of 2021 when Mike Elliott took over as technical director, but Allison’s remit has always included F1, “in full support” of Elliott.