Expectations were high with the introduction of the new base effect rules. A completely new regulation gave opportunities to shake up the network. Due to the comeback of Ferrari and especially the death of Mercedes, these wishes largely came true.
After years of dominating the spread over two different rules, the The silver arrow their goal for the first time. The radical-looking Mercedes W13 seemed on paper like a big step forward. On the field, however, it turned out that steps were beyond the edge of an abyss.
Despite the disappointing performance and powerful guinea pigs, Mercedes stubbornly stuck to the ‘zeropod’ concept. However, the other three Mercedes teams chose to ape the dominant Red Bull RB18 to varying degrees.
Aston Martin in particular seemed to have traced the lines of Newey’s marvel well. Remarkably, McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams all happened to find more speed with the updates.
Dan Fallows was asked how close he believes Aston Martin is to achieving the same success as his former outfit (Red Bull): “The important thing for us is to make sure we’re not just copying what our competitors are doing. [..] we must develop our own way”.
Ahem… 😂 #F1 pic.twitter.com/DaOByabCVR
— Simon Dau (@there_is_no_if) 4 December 2022
According to Mercedes engineer on the field Andrew Shovlin, however, the approach from the customer teams was never an option for Mercedes. After all, the sidepod design wasn’t the main problem with the car. Furthermore, the proud team wanted to go their own way, regardless of the uncertainties that involved:
“Most of the engineering, especially in terms of aerodynamics, a lot of it is in the parts under the floor that you can’t see. That’s where a lot of the work is. The sidepod concept was something we had to stick with for the whole year But if we were more focused on finding a quick fix, we might have copied it and tried to see what it does.”
“But our goal has always been to [het eigen concept] trying to understand and find our own way. Because if you want to win, and you want to win races and championships, you don’t get there by copying everyone. All our other cars have progressive elements, they had smart ideas in them. We have tried to be a leader with the technology, so we will continue to do so.”
Mercedes’ problems were much bigger than instability and heavy bouncing. The angular W13 generated a lot of resistance and left the car well behind the Ferrari at top speed and especially low drag Red Bull. Only on high-altitude circuits with thin air (such as Mexico and Brazil) could the car perform really well.
However, Shovlin is not concerned about the speed deficit in a straight line. After all, it has been the case for years that the slowest teams overall manage to clock the highest speeds straight away. Driving fast in a straight line is therefore not essential:
“When you have a whole new set of rules, it’s hard to know where everyone wants to go with the design. [De Red Bull] seems to have less drag if we put the same wings on it. Earlier in the year we had to drive with a lot of downforce, which certainly didn’t help in that respect.’
“But if you look at Brazil, we didn’t have the fastest car [in een rechte lijn], but we were able to overtake them and we could get a 1-2. So speed in a straight line is not our main priority. And one of the fastest cars in a straight line is Williams. So it doesn’t define your performance level. But if you are otherwise equal, it is a nice advantage to have. So this is something we would like to rectify. But the priority will always be the base speed of the car and getting it to the right level.”