Mercedes reveal radical sidepod design in Bahrain

Mercedes AMG Petronas Media

Before anyone gets upset and begins pointing fingers and becoming FIA regulatory hawks, it might be good to just recognize how wonderful it can be to see a new set of regulations and the extreme interpretations each team delivers.

Mercedes appeared at the Bahrain test with a new Zero Sidepod concept that nearly eliminates the sidepod with tall vertical air inlets and the use of the required SIS (side impact structure) to mount their mirror and possibly even used as a aero device in the absence of a barge board.

There’s been a lot of discussion already and as the superlative Adam Cooper mentions at Motorsport, the architect of the new regulations has weighed in on the design. F1 sporting director Ross Brawn said:

“I think there’s no doubt that the Mercedes concept we didn’t anticipate, it’s a very extreme interpretation of the regulations,” Brawn said in an interview with F1 TV.

“And I think inevitably, there’s going be a lot of debate about their interpretation. That’s what happens with new regulations. And however hard you try to close off all the options, and believe me, we closed off hundreds of them, as I say the innovation in F1, it’s always extreme.

“So from our perspective, it’s largely about does it affect the objective of the regulations? From the teams’ perspective, they want to be sure that no one’s taken an interpretation that they don’t feel is correct. So I think there’s going to be a lot of debate in next few days.”

I think Ross is correct, there will be a lot of talk as the SIS is intended to provide strength the side bodywork of the car in the event of a side impact. I am curious if having a single support jutting out of the body with a mirror mounted on it and with aerodynamic curvature is going to sate the regulations in either letter or spirit of the regulations.

Does that mean it should be summarily dismissed? According to Brawn, not necessarily.

“It’s impressive,” Brawn said of the W13. “And I think this is the great thing about the innovation of F1, and it’s just keeping it within boundaries which are sensible, and there are no compromises as I say, in terms of the objective of what we wanted to achieve.

“I think you have to be fair, I think when a team comes up with an idea, with innovation, with novelty, you shouldn’t penalise it straight away.

“But I think as it’s understood more the FIA really, as a regulator of the sport know everything that’s going on there, we don’t as F1, because we’re not entitled to have information. But the regulator of the sport knows what’s going on. I think they’re okay with it so far.

“But of course, a team may come in and raise an objection that the FIA hadn’t considered. And then you have a problem. And I’ve been through that many times where your idea is okay, the FIA agrees it’s okay.

“And then a team comes in with a perspective that have never been considered and have an argument that’s valid. So I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of discussion about it. But it’s impressive for a set of rules, which everybody said was too prescriptive. We’re seeing all these solutions.”

The last major shakeup I can recall was the dual diffuser of Brawn in 2009 and while complaints and litigation ensued, the FIA deemed it legal. Will that happen here? We will have to wait and see but if you are a champion of innovation, superior heat exchangers, radiators and engine cooling, then this design is right up your alley.

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Andrew Douglas

Personally I love the fact that engineers are pushing the envelope. Of course a stink will be raised… it has always been thus. Right now we’re in a place not unlike the heady days of the 70s and 80s, when forward thinkers such as Williams, Lotus, Brabham and Tyrell were coming up with weird and wacky stuff ranging from the original ground effect cars with skirts to the double chassis to six-wheelers and the infamous one-and-done BT46 fan car. I’m all for this kind of thing. Engineering innovation is at least half of what I love about F1. If everybody… Read more »

Xean Drury

One thing that strikes me about the Merc is how darn narrow it is. Hate to say it, but I think they’ve done it again. ~X8

Glen Mhor

Plaudits for thinking outside of the envelope. Quite a challenge and sizeable project, but on the track? Let’s see.

William Oxley

I personally love it, as I loved DAS a few years back. It’s what F1 is about. This coming from a Mercedes competitor fan.

Paul Kiefer

It looks like what happens to the fender after it gets crumpled in an accident.