Toto Wolff defends controversial Mercedes design

Mercedes finished in third place last season, struggling to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari under the new regulations.

The major regulation changes that came into effect at the start of last season gave teams the chance to revolutionise the designs of their cars and try something new.

One part of the cars that saw a lot of variation up and down the grid was the sidepods, with some teams such as Mercedes even opting to adopt a zero-sidepod approach, which was very different to anything that had been seen before.

The W13 unfortunately proved to be uncompetitive compared to Red Bull and Ferrari, with a porpoising issue putting any performance upgrades on hold for the first half of the season.

The bold sidepod approach did not change over the course of last season, with Mercedes instead choosing to develop their underfloor and wings to improve performance.

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These upgrades saw George Russell win in Brazil and the team end the season strongly, giving Mercedes confidence that they can be competitive this year.

With pre-season testing in Bahrain now underway, Mercedes have surprisingly kept their narrow sidepods, despite Red Bull and Ferrari proving that their approaches are proven to be successful.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has now praised his team for their bold approach, however he did suggest that the team’s sidepod design could change over the course of the season.

“It’s important to be bold in this sport. I’m proud of the solutions we put in the car last year,” the Austrian said.

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“Our sidepod design is not something we believe is fundamentally the reason we didn’t perform.

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“We kept with the narrow sidepod but you could well see some development from now on that could be coming with the upgrades and the sidepods are likely to change. Not very soon but we are looking at solutions but it is not a car fundamental part for us as we judge.”

With only three days of testing available to the teams in Bahrain this year, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will not have long to get to grips with the W14 ahead of the upcoming season.

Both drivers will have title ambitions this season, following Russell’s impressive start to life at Mercedes last year, meaning that there could be up to six drivers across Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari in contention for the championship this year.