The last time we saw a Mercedes with conventional sides was a year and a half ago, in the Barcelona tests in February 2022. Ground effect F1s were yet to be discovered, Toto Wolff’s team had promised to revolutionize the schemes with the concept “zero bellies”. After a year, the Brackley engineers had to rethink long-term development. Sticking with the W13 concept didn’t work and Hamilton’s words after the tests in Bahrain (“the technicians had to listen to me”) they partly took shape with the massive upgrade initially planned for Imola and then moved to Montecarlo.
Finally, the designers had to rethink the aerodynamic platform to produce greater stability. This is only a first step and if we focus on the overall dimensions we see that they remain small compared to the edge of the bottom. It certainly wasn’t conceivable to redo the chassis during the current season, which demonstrates how the low was still considered valid this winter. After all, completely changing the development route without appeal could generate regrets about the “zero bellies” philosophy. It was worth leaving an open door to change. Change that has arrived, as promised by Toto Wolff, in some very visible areas. However, it should not be forgotten that if a car doesn’t work, or isn’t highly competitive, the bottom is the element on which to pour the greatest resources, but not the most conspicuous.
Mercedes had weight problems to manage, not the dimensions but the distribution of the masses. It should be remembered that the W13 of early 2022 was greatly overweight, the zero-pods concept had partially solved that problem. Going back would have forced the engineers to stall a little before they could turn around and change designs. The bellies have moved on to the broader concept, in some respects modeling more Ferrari than Red Bull, but it’s not too extreme a turn. Flows are now forced under the cooling vents but with limited undercut passage. Although the anti-intrusion cone is low, the area has not been cleared. However, it is more accentuated than the current SF-23.
– Changes to the front suspension
However the rearward slope of the bonnet is now set significantly downwards (downwash) ie to increase the load towards the diffuser chute. Following the most widespread trend, which – it is said – will also be joined by Ferrari from Barcelona. The highest part has remained the same with a large, practically vertical surface. The W14’s front suspension is the other upgraded element and perhaps the one that the other teams will be eyeing the most. It is a very intelligent and low-cost modification, which can be replicated. Only the front arm of the quadrilateral has been moved up. You can also see the old attachment in the frame, now bolted. This shift changes the geometry of the front wishbone, thus increasing (as expected) the anti-dive effect while maintaining the push rod, along the lines of the Aston Martin.
This is an interesting trick that could be taken up by other teams. Ferrari could in theory implement it. The problem is the immediacy of understanding. A stiffer front and less subject to inclination changes under braking and acceleration presents an adaptation problem both in terms of setup and driving sensitivity. It is clear that Monaco is not ideal, on the other hand the chassis had been adapted before Imola, so the real test will be in Barcelona.
The news of the other teams
We then have some other innovations to report. On the SF-23 there is the new single pylon rear wing for maximum downforce and some other small innovations, confirmed by Vasseur. The bulk of the package will appear in Spain next week. From Maranello it is said that it will be very visible. Aston Martin is also expected to have some minor changes and Haas has introduced new front and rear wing specs. In Montecarlo, with reduced speeds, all teams are called upon to extract as much of the load as possible above the bottom.
– The new Ferrari rear wing